Road to Dehradun (5) – Test match Day One

The eve of the test match was spent at the IDA hotel with three families (Balbirnies, Cameron–Dows and Poynter/Lowes) sharing a fine meal and wishing all good fortune to the boys for the following day. With the Balbirnies only arriving at 7pm it was an early night for all.

At the gatehouse on the morning of the Test, the new tourists joined with the old only to find their passage into the ground blocked by Indian bureaucracy. The parents had gathered for a 9.10am awarding of the new caps to the players as advised by the manager. It was now 9.05 and we were going nowhere! An interjection by one of our party on the poor unsuspecting lad in the ticket gate house seems to have sparked a positive reaction from what can only be ‘the man who will be obeyed’.

Within seconds we were ushered onto the playing arena, but kept behind the advertising boards. From there we had a close enough vantage point for the ceremony. Five new caps awarded, Cameron-Dow, Dockrell, McBrine, McCollum and Poynter. Ireland wins the toss and decides to bat, the breaking news that Thompson and McCollum were replacing Singh and Rankin from the last ODI.

Stirlo and Porty strode to the wicket and proceeded to stroke the Afghani opening bowlers to all parts, racking up a run rate at over 6. A steady start came to a shuddering halt when Stirlo nicked off. Porterfield again LBW in Nabis first over for 9 was soon followed by Balbo who got a peach from Ahmadzai. Kevin joined debutant James McCollum and they moved the score on past 50 before Rashid in his first over removed James with a wrong un and Stuey with an LBW off a leg stump Yorker. DRS is not being used in this TEST but the commentators felt it was missing.

Nabi then removed Kevin and Stuart Thompson in successive overs after a brief period of grinding out a lengthy partnership. Kevin Woods opined to the gathered Irish supporters, I just hope we can make 110. To which Murray Power, recently arrived, dryly responded ‘is your wish numerically or time based!!’ Georgie and Andy McBrine knuckled down and saw the side through to lunch at noon without any further loss.

In the first over after lunch Andy played on whilst sweeping Salemkhell, bringing James (JCD) to the crease to join George. Another LBW spelt the end for James at 85/9. 110 and 1.10pm were looking a way off. Enter the Lambeth Lara who had other ideas. Tim Murtagh proceeded to hit Irelands first two sixes in tests and along with the redoubtable George Dockrell, slowly but surely brought up the three figures and then their 50 partnership.

As their confidence grew the Afghans grew more concerned and tried various changes of bowler. A text from Kate McKenna to the group was read out. Thank god for a good GnT (George and Tim). All 110’s safely cleared. Tim moved on past a thoroughly deserved half century and hundred partnership looked on. At 172 George gave a tickle to the keeper and their stout rear-guard came to a close. Not what Ireland was hoping for at the toss but a magnificent turn around in the post lunch session.

Both batsmen were cheered from the field by supporters and teammates alike, but now for the hard part, the need to take Afghan wickets quickly. Tea was taken immediately. Murtagh and McBrine resumed their opening partnership with the ball. Runs were at a premium with only 13 coming off the first 10. James Cameron-Dow was brought on first change in the twelfth over and proceeded to remove Ihsanullah.

Rahmat Shah was the new batsman, joining Shahzad who having taken 19 balls to get off the mark, slowly increased his run rate until he too was removed by a sharp caught and bowled by the dangerous JCD. The new batsman Shahidi and Rahmat saw out the days play without further incident, the Irish bowlers keeping them below three an over.

A day of peaks and troughs, with the first session so much in Afghanistan’s favour and the second Irelands, through the tenacity of Murtagh and Dockrell. The third and final session was probably the Afghans on points.

A lot still to play for the boys in green will want to put right the shortcomings of the first day very quickly.

The day in general was dissected again over a meal with Aideen Rice, Derek Dockrell, Kevin Woods, Roger Kidd, Woodsy from Leinster, Wendy and I. A long evening of cricket anecdotes and funny stories.

Now for the serious stuff of day two.