Lunch Afghanistan 157 for 2 (Shah 59*, Shahidi 43*) trail Ireland 172 by 15 runs
Rahmat Shah became the first Afghanistan batsman to make a Test fifty and was supported by Hashmatullah Shahidi as the overnight pair’s watchful stand extended to 89 runs at lunch on the second day. The stand brought them to within 16 runs from taking the lead.
The game turned into a battle of patience early in the day, with both teams extremely conservative in the opening hour. On a tired, dry pitch with little turn in it, there wasn’t a more feasible strategy for Ireland than bowling full and at the stumps. The experience of Tim Murtagh, who has 760 first-class wickets, and captain William Porterfield who has played 131 first-class games, combined to form an effective plan: length in the corridor, two catchers on either side of the pitch, and one at short midwicket.
Neither Shah, nor Shahidi actively sought runs while Murtagh was on. At the other end, George Dockrell, who only got an over last evening, settled into a tight line as well. Natural variation of the pitch drew some inside edges and a nervous chip towards mid-off, but Afghanistan’s third-wicket pair was resolute for most of the first hour. Murtagh’s spell of 6-3-3-0 and an opening hour where they got only 20 in 16 overs could have led to frustration. But with little happening, it was only a matter of time.
Both batsmen occasionally attempted frenzied release shot. Shah in particular appeared to be getting antsy, trying to step out and drive Dockrell unsuccessfully on at least five occassions, but it was only after the first drinks break that the runs started flowing.
The Murtagh-Dockrell pair was replaced by a similar one: Stuart Thompson and James Cameron-Dow. They were the bowlers that had looked most dangerous on the first day, with Thompson making the old ball swing and Cameron-Down having taken the two wickets to fall. But on the second day, they were both a shade shorter on average than they would have liked.
From this indiscipline, Shah started extracting runs, having first hit Dockrell out of the attack with two sublime hits over his head. Thompson erred too straight, and Cameron-Dow too short and suddenly Shah had hit boundaries off four consecutive overs. The field was well spread out as a result and Shah started holding his shape much better after stepping out with the knowledge that soft-handed solidity would get him runs.
For Shahidi, too, the gaps in the field were available, but the left-hander found it a little harder to be as free-flowing as his partner. Among Afghanistan’s most successful ODI batsman in recent times, Shahidi looked circumspect for the most part. This was a result both of his own defensiveness and of the crack outside his off stump from the spinners’ end.
They were both in evidence at the end of the 60th over, when he nearly got a glove after nervously pushing his leg out at a Cameron-Dow delivery outside off, and was beaten next ball on the inside edge. On both occassions, the close-in fielders’ appeals were turned down. Those appeals were the closest Ireland came all session where 47 runs came in the 14 overs after drinks.