It could not have started any better for Ireland with William Porterfield winning the toss but three balls after lunch Ireland were 69-8 and their first overseas Test match was turning into a nightmare.

The record books were being scoured to find out the length of the shortest Test and when Ireland lost their ninth wicket just 16 runs later, they were still big odds against reaching the respectability of three figures, especially as the next man in was Tim Murtagh.

Ireland’s opening bowler had faced three balls on this tour before yesterday and was dismissed on both occasions without scoring. But not only did he show the rest of his team-mates how to see off Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and company, he scored his first half century for eight years and was left stranded 54 not out when George Dockrell was caught behind.

Almost two hours after the fall of the eighth wicket, the record books were being thumbed through again and this time they showed Murtagh had made the highest score by an Ireland No 11, the third highest ever in Test cricket when a No 11 had top scored and halfway through their second Test match, the ‘Lambeth Lara’ had Ireland’s highest batting average (64), the best strike rate (75) and the most sixes.

He actually has no challenger for the latter record at the moment because he has hit Ireland’s only two maximums, both off Nabi, who he hit out of the attack.

Murtagh also had to face 22 balls from Ireland’s nemesis Rashid Khan in an innings which has set the standard for all Ireland’s future Test No 11s. Murtagh’s partnership with Dockrell, who made 39 in his first Test innings, was 87, the second highest for the 10th wicket.

It took Ireland comfortably past their first Test total against Pakistan at Malahide of 130, when they faced a first innings deficit of 180 and they will be hugely disappointed if Afghanistan get anywhere near that advantage today.

The ‘home side’ finished the first day on 90-2, still 82 behind with Dockrell, after his batting high, mysteriously given only the last of the 31 overs which Ireland bowled yesterday evening.

James Cameron-Dow, one of Ireland’s five Test debutants, took both wickets although he was twice as expensive as the rest of the attack. Andy McBrine, again, was economical but hardly threatening enough to have been given 13 overs against four right-handers and there was no luck for Murtagh and Thompson.

Thompson was the surprise, and possibly shrewd, selection when Ireland announced their team, coming in for Boyd Rankin who was left out because it was such a slow pitch and the Eglinton man is a superior batsman.
Like the rest of the top seven, however, he was caught in the headlights as opening bowler Javed Ahmadzai, Rashid – who bowled James McCollum with his first ball - and Nabi ripped through the Ireland batting, reducing them from 37-0 to 62-7 in the space of 14 overs.

Chinaman bowler Waqar Salamkheil, one of three Afghanistan Test debutants, bamboozled McBrine and Cameron-Dow but Dockrell hit four of his six boundaries off him in his marathon 100-ball innings, 25 more than Murtagh, who also hit a quartet of fours to go with his two sixes.

Between them Murtagh and Dockrell faced only 10 balls less than the rest of the team put together and, much like at Malahide last May, they will be grateful for a second innings and the chance to put things right.