Ireland v Pakistan: Imam-ul-Haq prevents an Irish win on Test debut
|Only Test, Malahide, Dublin (day five of five)|
|Pakistan 310-9d & 160-5: Imam 74, Babar 59; Murtagh 2-55|
|Ireland 130 & 339: O’Brien 118, Thompson 53, Joyce 43; Abbas 5-66|
|Pakistan beat Ireland by five wickets|
Pakistan denied Ireland an unlikely win in their inaugural Test after a nervous start to their run chase at Malahide.
A stunning opening bowling spell raised the tantalising prospect of Ireland becoming the second side to win on Test debut as Pakistan were reeling on 14-3.
But Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam shared a 126-run fourth wicket stand as Pakistan battled to their winning target of 160.
The match ended just as rain clouds began to darken over Malahide and the prospect of a draw had surfaced.
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Pakistan struggled to complete a relatively modest run-chase against Sri Lanka last year and a furious bowling spell from Ireland’s seamers sent a thrill of expectation around the ground.
Tim Murtagh dismissed Azhar Ali with the fourth ball of the innings, that was nicked to first slip, before extra height from Boyd Rankin accounted for Haris Sohail and Murtagh returned to bowl Asad Shafiq in the next over.
Babar joined Imam in the middle and the pair took the sting out of the Irish attack before both players built half-centuries.
Babar was run out on 59 but Imam, who looked composed throughout his Test debut, struck the winning runs to clinch victory by five wickets.
Irish hopes fade with O’Brien departure
The hosts began the day on 319-7 thanks to Kevin O’Brien’s belligerent knock but Ireland’s maiden Test centurion was caught off his first ball of the day.
Tyrone Kane brought up the 50-run partnership in the opening over before O’Brien, who had shown admirable patience to reach his ton, was caught chasing a wide delivery from Mohammad Abbas.
The all-rounder, who represented his team’s best chance of setting a shock win, was visibly distraught and flipped his bat in the air as he trudged off.
The Irish tail added a further 18 runs for the final two wickets as Pakistan were set a modest target of 160 with an hour to play before lunch.
The visitors, who will take on England in a two-Test series starting on 24 May, were left reeling by Murtagh and Rankin’s opening spell.
The departure of Asad, who had looked in good touch in the first innings, for just one run reignited the home crowd’s hope of an historic win.
Not since Australia’s defeat of England in 1877 has a Test debutant won their opening match but Pakistan were struggling to build a partnership that could stop Ireland’s bowlers.
Babar was dropped on nine runs in the 19th over when Balbirnie could not hold a catchable chance and the right-hander immediately made Ireland pay by thumping two of his next four deliveries through the covers for boundaries.
Babar’s departure, which came after a mix up between the two batsmen, was followed shortly afterwards by team captain Sarfraz Ahmed, who was out lbw off a Stuart Thompson delivery that kept low.
Shadab Khan joined Imam in the middle and the pair were able to secure the final eight runs required to clinch victory.
Test status vindicated
Despite the defeat, Ireland captain William Porterfield felt his side’s performance proved they deserved their elevation to full-membership.
“The biggest thing was how we fought back in the second innings with the bat – that showed the character we have,” said Porterfield.
“It’s something that’s been talked about during big occasions, World Cups. That’s always been known to be there but Test cricket is Test cricket for a reason, it’s there in the name, you did get tested and we were after the first innings.
“To get up to close to 350 showed what we’ve got in the changing room and the passion that we have for playing our cricket.”
World Cup victories against Pakistan, West Indies and England had helped to press Ireland’s case for Test status and Porterfield is hopeful that this latest performance can inspire more success in the future.
“Hopefully in the next week or two there’s going to be hundreds of little kids aspiring to be Kevin O’Brien in backstreet cricket,” added Porterfield.
“This Test match will have gone a long way to providing the next generation of cricketers, I’m sure.”
Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed was pleased by how his young side had responded to the loss of three early wickets.
“Definitely we were worried when we were 14-3,” said Sarfraz.
“It’s really good that two young players in our team showed their character and confidence.
“I think the way they played gives great confidence to the team and will help them in the next matches as well.”
Source: BBC SPORT NI