Cricbuzz Staff •
Tim Murtagh dismissed Rahmat Shah two short of his maiden Test century © Cricket Ireland
A lead of 70 in the context of this game seems quite significant already, but given the position of strength Afghanistan had found themselves in at one stage, with Rahmat Shah and Hashmatullah Shahidi looking set for big scores respectively, Ireland, with three wickets at a relatively quiet run-scoring, would be walking back happier.
The session started just how the one before this went – watchfully – with no blatant risks taken as the Shah-Shahidi stand marched on against a tired-looking bowling attack, merely going through their motions.
But when things seemed to be going along just fine, Shahidi fell completely against the run of play to possibly his first false stroke of the day. But to Andy McBrine’s credit, it was the set up that did him in. The seeds of doubt were planted with a sharp ripping delivery, beating the outside edge on his defence, and then followed it up with a full straight delivery for Shahidi to fall into the trap, sweeping all around it to be trapped plumb.
In what was a bigger heartbreak for all Afghanistan supporters, Rahmat Shah, well on course of becoming the country’s first ever Test centurion, fell to the nerves of the occasion, tamely chopping an innocuous looking short-wide delivery onto his stumps for 98, soon after Ireland turned to their last resort of ensuring the door doesn’t close down on them, the second new ball.
Stuart Thompson struck off the very next over, with the new man, Mohammad Nabi, chipping one softly to short mid-wicket. But skipper, Asghar Afghan, shut shop with an able ally in Ikram Ali Khil to see off the last few overs of the session without further damage. But with two relatively new batsmen at the crease, and predominantly bowling all-rounders to follow, this is Ireland’s best chance of making sure they don’t fall far behind in the trail.
Brief scores: Afghanistan 242/5 (Rahmat Shah 98, Hashmatullah Shahidi 61; James Cameron-Dow 2-94) lead Ireland 172 (Tim Murtagh 54, George Dockrell 39; Mohammad Nabi 3-36, Yamin Ahmadzai 3-41) by 70 runs.