TIM MURTAGH delivered the “best innings” of his long career in north-east India yesterday, (FRI) striking an unbeaten half-century to give Ireland a toehold in their one-off Test match against Afghanistan after the embarrassment of a shambolic collapse.

Veteran Murtagh, who was considered an all-rounder a decade ago, arrived at the crease without a half-century since 2011 and with Ireland in disarray at 85-9 - in itself a small recovery from the depths of 69-8 that were plumbed immediately after lunch.

In a partnership with the ever-improving George Dockrell, that began with the modest ambition of getting Ireland past 100, he added an impressive 87 for the last wicket, and claimed the joint-eleventh highest score by any No11 in Tests.

The 38-year-old also hit Ireland’s first two sixes in Test cricket, fitting perhaps for someone dubbed ‘the Lambeth Lara’ by his adoring Middlesex fans, as well as four fours, in a 75-ball knock of 54 not out that was only cut short when Dockrell was caught behind for 39.

A total of 172 was well short of the 275-300 runs Ireland would have targetted when William Porterfield won the toss, but it was just about respectable and way beyond what could have been expected after the procession of top-order batsmen.

“That has to be my best innings,” Murtagh said. “It was enjoyable as we needed a partnership to rescue us and George and I had to get our heads down. It was crucial to get some runs and from the position we were in that was more than we could have hoped for.

“The pitch was a bit tacky in the first session and perhaps the ball was gripping and spinning more than when it dried out later, but certainly there isn’t much pace and bounce and we expect it to get lower and slower as the game goes on. A score of 250 would have been good.”

Ireland looked on their way to a dominant total as Paul Stirling and Porterfield sped to 37 without loss but a firm push and a nick behind from Stirling on 26 sparked an unexplainable collapse with eight wickets falling for 32.

James McCollum, one of five new Test caps in the side, was bowled by a Rashid Khan googly for four, and fellow debutant Stuart Poynter followed two balls later when he missed a full toss. Poynter’s lbw decision was marginal and Kevin O’Brien, who made 12, might also have survived had there been a Decision Review System available.

Still chirpy after an innings that he has promised to talk Ed Joyce through at the first opportunity, Murtagh had no success with the new ball and with Boyd Rankin not selected it was left-arm spinner James Cameron-Dow who took the wickets to fall as Afghanistan closed on 90-2.

“There’s not much help out there for the seamers,” Murtagh said. ”We’ll be looking for a bit of reverse swing at some point but it’s really a question of bowling as straight as we can, building pressure and looking for catches in front of the wicket.”