Irish cricketers close in on fourth Intercontinental Cup

Trent Johnston hoping to return for last day as an international after leaving field early with an Achilles strain

Ireland’s Trent Johnston had to leave the field after bowling two overs.  Photograph: Barry Chambers/Inpho

Ireland’s Trent Johnston had to leave the field after bowling two overs. Photograph: Barry Chambers/Inpho

Thu, Dec 12, 2013, 13:59

Ireland moved within sight of a fourth Intercontinental Cup trophy in Dubai on Thursday as they reduced Afghanistan to 136 for five, still 211 runs short of victory, on the third day of the final at the ICC Global Academy.

Ireland had earlier fallen short of their goal of batting through the third day as they saw a strong position of 244 for three become 341 all out as the Afghans struck back in the second session.

That left Afghanistan needing 347 to hold on to the trophy, but their hopes were hit in the first over when opener Shabir Noori was trapped leg-before by Trent Johnston with his fifth delivery.

The 39-year-old had to leave the field after bowling just two overs as his troublesome Achilles injury flared up again and the hope will be that a night’s rest will allow him to return to the field for what will be his last day as an international cricketer.

John Mooney replaced Johnston and added to his five-wicket haul from the first innings when Nawroz Mangal was caught brilliantly down the leg-side by wicketkeeper Niall O’Brien after making 23.

With a deep batting line-up that mixes flair with application, Afghanistan are a dangerous chasing side and Mohammad Shazad was playing in his usual high-octane fashion until George Dockrell held on to a tough return catch to see him off after he had made 39 from 50 balls.

Left-arm spinner Dockrell then took two vital wickets in the first over after the final drinks break, bowling Asghar Stanikzai for two and, four balls later, trapping Afsar Zazai leg-before without scoring.

With over an hour still to play, Ireland sniffed a victory within three days, but Afghanistan’s batsmen reined in their attacking instincts until the close of play with Rehmat Shah (33 not out) and skipper Mohammad Nabi (25 not out) adding 51 runs in the remaining 21 overs of play.

Earlier in the day Ed Joyce and Niall O’Brien were only able to add four to their 106-run stand before Joyce was bowled by Dawlat Zadran for 78 in the first over.

Andrew White (39) then joined Niall O’Brien in an 81-run stand for the fourth wicket before Ireland lost four wickets for 30 runs, including O’Brien for a fine 87.

At 274 for seven, Ireland knew they needed to find at least another 50 runs at least to give their bowlers some wriggle room in the final innings and Kevin O’Brien was the man for the job yet again, hitting nine fours in a knock of 47 off 43 balls to get his side past the 300-mark.

Johnston also made a mark late on in his last innings for Ireland and he was last man out for 31 as the innings closed on 341.

ICC INTERCONTINENTAL CUP FINAL (at ICC Global Academy, Dubai):

Day 3 of 5 - Overnight: Ireland 187 (61 ovs) (J Anderson 55, J Mooney 33; D Zadran 4-44, R Shah 3-36, S Shenwari 2-26) & 159-2 (46 ovs) (E Joyce 74no, N O’Brien 40no, W Porterfield 34) v Afghanistan 182 (77.5 ovs) (M Nabi 42, A Stanikzai 41, S Noori 29 R Shah 20; J Mooney 5-45, G Dockrell 3-52, T Johnston 2-50).

IRELAND 2ND INNINGS

W Porterfield c Shah b Nabi 34

P Stirling c Zazai b Zadran 7

E Joyce b Zadran 78

N O’Brien c Noori b Ashraf 87

A White lbw b Shah 39

J Anderson c Mangal b Shah 2

K O’Brien lbw b Nabi 47

J Mooney c Zazai b Ashraf 3

T Johnston c Ashraf b Nabi 31

M Sorensen c Noori b Nabi 0

G Dockrell not out 8

Extras (lb 5) 5

Total (all out, 95.1 ovs) 341

Fall of wickets: 1-15, 2-53, 3-163, 4-244, 5-250, 6-258, 7-274, 3-316, 9-316.

Bowling: D Zadran 20-1-101-2; I Dawlatzai 11-3-39-0; M Ashraf 19-4-63-2; M Nabi 25.1-7-38-4; S Shenwari 4-0-32-0; R Shah 12-0-58-2; S Noori 1-1-0-0; N Mangal 3-0-5-0.

AFGHANISTAN 2ND INNINGS

S Noori lbw b Johnston 8

N Mangal c N O’Brien b Mooney 23

M Shazad c&b Dockrell 39

R Shah not out 33

A Stanikzai b Dockrell 2

A Zazai lbw b Dockrell 0

M Nabi not out 25

Extras (lb 6) 6

Total (for 5 wkts, 43 ovs) 136

Fall of wickets: 1-8, 2-65, 3-75, 4-85, 5-85.

To bat: M Ashraf, S Shenwari, D Zadran, I Dawlatzai.

Bowling: T Johnston 2-0-12-1; M Sorensen 11-1-55-0; J Mooney 7-1-22-1; G Dockrell 16-8-26-3; K O’Brien 5-1-14-0; J Anderson 1-0-1-0; P Stirling 1-1-0-0.