Recent Match Report – Afghanistan vs Ireland Only Test 2023/24

Stumps Afghanistan 155 and 134 for 3 (Shahidi 53*, Noor 32, Adair 2-23) lead Ireland 263 (Stirling 52 Campher 49, Zia-ur-Rehman 5-64, Naveed 3-59) by 26 runs

Hashmatullah Shahidi’s unbeaten 53 led Afghanistan’s batting and left the Abu Dhabi Test delicately poised at stumps on the second day. After conceding a 108-run first-innings lead, Afghanistan fought back to end the day at 134 for 3 in their second innings, with a lead of 26 runs.

Shahidi will resume his stand with debutant Rahmanullah Gurbaz on Friday while Ireland will hope that their spinners can make a bigger impact on day three.

For Ireland, Paul Stirling made 52 and four other batters scored between 30 and 50 to lift them to 263. Left-arm spinner Zia-ur-Rehman’s control and Naveed Zadran’s pace didn’t allow Ireland’s batters to build on their starts.

Zia wheeled away for 30 overs, returning 5 for 64 – his maiden five-wicket haul in Test cricket – while Naveed picked up 3 for 59.

Naveed had found variable bounce in the first over of the day under cloudy skies while Zia, at the other end, drifted the ball in towards the stumps before ripping it past the edge consistently. In the fifth over of the day, Naveed got a length ball to seam back in and had Harry Tector lbw for his overnight score of 32.

Lorcan Tucker then joined Stirling with Ireland 49 runs behind and five wickets in hand. Despite a couple of boundaries allowing the batters some breathing space, the tight lengths and the spin-friendly pitch didn’t allow Ireland to get away.

Left-arm wristspinner Zahir Khan, though, couldn’t maintain the pressure as Stirling attacked him with sweeps and pulls. The outfield was now accessible and it helped Ireland get into the lead. Forty-five runs were scored in the first 19 overs of the day, 41 were made in the next 7.4.

Stirling brought up fifty by slapping an overpitched ball from Zahir through cover. But a change of ends in the final over before lunch worked for Zahir. He ripped one back from a fullish length, through bat and pad, to castle Stirling with Ireland’s lead at 31.

Stirling and Tucker had put on 80, the highest sixth-wicket partnership for Ireland, in Test cricket. Ireland’s previous highest was 72 between Tucker and Tector against Bangladesh in Mirpur last year.

Tucker middled a few drives but often found the fielders. Andy McBrine was slow but steady and helped take Ireland past 200. The stand ended when Zia enticed a booming drive from Tucker and had him caught by Rahmat Shah.

Mark Adair then came in and often didn’t read the spinners off the hand. Zia trapped both Adair and No.10 Barry McCarthy lbw to complete his five-for. McBrine was the last to depart when he skied a catch to mid-off off Nijat.

After folding for 155 in their first innings, Afghanistan’s batters stepped up in the second. Ibrahim Zadran and Noor Ali found gaps on the offside to balls that were short of a length. But a brilliant one-handed catch from Peter Moor at gully off Adair gave Ireland the opening breakthrough. Ibrahim had steered a wide length ball and Moor collapsed to his left, went low to pick up the ball and rose with it in one motion. The third umpire was called in and he was convinced that it was a clean catch.

Rahmat then fell soon after to leave Afghanistan at 38 for 2. Noor and Shahidi had some nervy moments but they overcame it to steady the innings. Shahidi was even hit on the glove due to extra bounce in the 11th over. But the pair saw off Adair’s seven-over opening spell that yielded 2 for 23 and got stuck into Theo van Woerkom.

Young’s pace and McBrine’s flight and dip, though, tested the batters but they kept rotating the strike. Ireland burnt a review in the 25th over but McCarthy gave them respite by having Noor fend a shortish ball that kicked off the pitch to Adair at gully.

Gurbaz got off the mark and brought up Afghanistan’s hundred by pumping McBrine over mid-on. He then flayed McCarthy over point to take them into the lead. Shahidi laid into van Woerkom once again to build Afghanistan’s lead.

Ekanth is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo

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