Ireland's first day of Test cricket starts and ends with a bang

Pakistan move into position of control during third session of second day at Malahide

Pakistan and Ireland’s players line up on the field before play on day two of Ireland’s inaugural test match at Malahide cricket club. Photograph: Getty Images

Pakistan and Ireland’s players line up on the field before play on day two of Ireland’s inaugural test match at Malahide cricket club. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Score at close of play: Pakistan 268-6 (76 ovs) (Asad Shafiq 62, Faheen Ashraf 61no, Shadab Khan 52no, Haris Sohail 31, Sarfraz Ahmed 20; T Murtagh 2-33, S Thompson 2-51, B Rankin 2-58)

Ireland’s first day of play in Test cricket started and ended with a bang with a dramatic first delivery opening affairs and a clap of thunder and a flash of lightning ending play at Malahide with Pakistan having firmly  taken the upper hand.

When the players left the pitch shortly before 5.30pm just before the heavens opened - play was abandoned for the day 20 minutes later - Pakistan had moved on to 268 for six, with Faheem Ashraf on 61 not out and Shadab Khan unbeaten on 52.

The seventh-wicket stand was already worth 109 runs and the pair had moved Pakistan away from a slightly shaky position before tea, where they had been 159 for six at one stage, to give them a decided edge after day two, the first day having been a complete washout.

Ireland’s seam-dominated attack, led brilliantly by Tim Murtagh (two for 33 in 17 overs), had enjoyed moments of success throughout the day, but seemed to have run out of ideas as they awaited the new ball.

The off-spin of Paul Stirling had been employed by Ireland skipper William Porterfield as the skies darkened, many in the crowd having already departed in a bid to catch up on proceedings in Bilbao.

Pakistan will start Sunday looking to push towards a total past 400, and in Shadab and Ashraf, they look to have two talented young batsmen, although Shadab’s leg-spin may yet be his biggest contribution to the match.

For Ireland, the new ball - four overs away - will offer some succour as they look to take the last four wickets they need.          

    
Although Test cricket arrived 24 hours late in Malahide, it finally did so under clear blue skies, with Friday’s driving rain and howling winds a fading memory.

After Porterfield won the toss and put Pakistan into bat, the teams lined up for the anthems, the emotion of the moment plain to be seen in the faces of the crowd as Ireland’s Call rang out.

Once the familiarities were done, Murtagh was handed the new ball as the noise levels rose as an expectant crowd cheered him in to the crease for the first Test delivery in Ireland.

And what drama followed as a hurried single saw Imam-ul-Haq collide with Tyrone Kane, both players hitting the deck.

Merrion all-rounder Kane was quickly to his feet, but Imam, a nephew of Inzaman-ul-Haq - a man not known for his running between the wickets - required lengthy treatment after injuring his neck in the collision.

Both physios attended him, with Ireland’s Ciaran O’Reilly assisting his Pakistan counterpart. O’Reilly, who also works with Dublin’s senior footballers, would not have expected to be dealing with an impact injury after the first ball.

Bowling from the Dublin Road end, Murtagh was getting some early movement off a pitch that was less green than expected, with Malahide groundsman Philip Frost and his team turning the ground out in immaculate condition, an incredible feat given Friday’s weather.

Boyd Rankin, the 15th man to play Test cricket for two countries, also looked in good early touch and it was the big 6” 8” Warwickshire bowler that made the breakthrough with the last ball of the eighth over when his extra bounce and a little movement saw Azhar Ali get an edge to second slip where Porterfield took the catch.

Rankin, whose last Test appearance was in England’s nightmare Ashes tour in 2013/2014, was mobbed by his team-mates, with celebrations in the stands just as joyous.

They didn’t have to wait long for a second as Murtagh struck next ball, trapping Imam leg-before for seven on his Test debut with a ball that would have hit middle stump.

Murtagh got the full treatment from his team-mates and there was almost a third wicket next ball, but Stuart Thompson was wide of the stumps where a direct hit would have seen the end of Haris Sohail, who was well out of his crease backing up. Thompson had more time than he thought and could have settled himself, but after all the excitement that went before he could be forgiven for firing in the ball.

After the first hour, Pakistan were 22 for two, but they enjoyed a far better second hour as Haris and Asad Shafiq upped the scoring rate, putting on 54 runs as the pitch showed that any help for the bowlers will be minimal.

Porterfield used all five of his seam bowlers before lunch but it was Pakistan that carried the momentum into the break, going in on 67 for two with Haris on 28 and Shafiq 22.

The pair looked well set to push on in the extended second session but Thompson brought the crowds rushing back to their seats when he struck with the last ball of the second over after lunch, when Haris was out to a poor shot as Porterfield reached forward to take the catch at gully.

Murtagh got his second wicket after continuing his excellent line of attack, beating the bat on numerous occasions. Babar Azam had hit three nice boundaries in his 14 as Pakistan went past 100 before Murtagh moved one away and caught the edge through to his Middlesex team-mate Stirling at second slip.

Shafiq is the class act of this Pakistan batting line-up and he moved past his half-century and had moved on to 62 before he played a poor pull shot to a short ball from Rankin, with Andrew Balbirnie taking the catch at square leg to leave Pakistan on 153 for five.     

Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed would also fall before tea, Thompson taking his second wicket with Stirling again taking the catch at second slip after a wafted effort from the batsman.

Stirling’s attempt to replicate John Mooney’s famous Gaelic football solo from the 2007 World Cup win over Pakistan was miscued as it shanked off his right foot, but at 159 for six, there was giddiness on the pitch as well as off.

Pakistan survived without any further damage, with Shadab and Ashraf showing the kind of form that would see them go on to dominate the Irish attack in the final session.

The third’s play will start at 11am on Sunday, with the umpires again adding time on later in the day.

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