Michael Lowe (CricketEurope
After months of planning and weeks of doing, I left a snowy Dublin for Dehradun on Monday. With Ireland down in the series the hope was for a change in their fortunes. After a brief stop in Abu Dhabi and a transfer in Delhi, Dehradun was reached without any dramas with three hours to spare before the start of the 3rd ODI.
With very little sleep in what felt like days, a quick shower and off to the ground in a tuk-tuk. My first impressions of Dehradun was that it was certainly bigger than Dharmasharla, but may lack some of its personality. The ground was on the eastern outskirts of the city and stood out from its surroundings. A very fine modern Cricket arena which Ireland would understandably be enviable of as a national stadium. Abbotstown has a standard to aspire to.
The crowd was small but growing with the Afghan supporters making noise in support of their team. The pundits said it was a wearing track that would be slow giving help to the spinners. As such, the Afghans having won the toss gleefully chose to bat with four changes to their team.
An unchanged Irish XI set about their quest with Murtagh and McBrine opening the bowling. The next 20 overs were enthralling, with Ireland deservedly reducing the Afghans to 74/5 with some inspired bowling and even a run out from Tim Murtagh. An uncharacteristic missed stumping by Stuey gave the Afghan skipper the chance he needed to slowly rebuild the innings with Najib. A century partnership was broken by Big Boyd but the damage was done with them recovering to 256/8 with Najib scoring his first ODI ton.
I was joined in the North Stand by James Cameron-Dows’ parents, Michael and Ida, who along with Cricket Chairman Ross McCollum and myself made up the rump of the Irish support. We had the bonus of being joined by the commentators when off air. Niall O’Brien has taken to his new role like a duck to water and we were very fortunate to enjoy his entertaining and refreshing insights. The general feeling of the experts was that it was 40 too many for the Irish batting line up against the Afghan spin bowlers on a very helpful wicket.
Not a lot of people were in disagreement but the hope was Stirlo and the skipper would set us well on our way. Despite a quick run rate, we contrived to toe end a couple to mid-on and again received the usual array of LBW dismissals. Simi was unfortunate on this occasion. 70 odd on the board , 4 down, 6 an over needed, step forward two batting heroes. Balbo and George dug in and then turned to attack as their confidence grew.
They cleared the fence with increasing regularity, keeping an unlikely victory in sight. Even the loss of George (for a rewarding half century) and Stuey in the last 10 could not dampen the resolve of Balbo.
As the likelihood of an Irish victory grew, the support of the neutrals in the crowd was switching overwhelmingly to us and with Andy McBrine, Balbo guided us to victory with an over to spare. Scoring an immense 145no, it was an innings of mature domination over a very skilled Afghan spin attack.
The elation and relief among the Ireland players and staff was very plain to see. A fully deserved victory in the end for the boys in green, ensuring the series remains live to the last game.
I know the boys celebrated last night, unfortunately the lack of sleep caught up with me! Three flights, a lack of sleep, tired from travelling, was it worth it – you bet it was! Roll on Friday.