Michael Lowe (CricketEurope)
Road to Dehradun (6) – Test match Day Two
I unforgivably neglected to mention on day one the arrival of Ger Siggins and Martha Young, as well as JCD’s partner Mira, who thankfully arrived in plenty of time to see James pick up his first two test wickets. Ger took his usual place in the media centre and Martha joined the supporters in box 9.
The search for early wickets was fruitless as Afghanistan made a slow but steady start. As the score continued to climb at a meagre rate, we witnessed the highlight of the morning session, another virtuoso performance from Stirlo on the boundary, with a forward roll, nip and tuck, to save a certain boundary. Technique a ballet dancer would be proud of!
Some tight bowling on occasions made the batsman frustrated and forced risky shots but no chances of any note were forthcoming. Morning drinks were taken with the score at 110/2. Rahmat progressed to his fifty but apart from two bat pad appeals of JCD nothing of note occurred as lunch was reached with the Afghans still only two down for 157 runs.
Twenty minutes into the post lunch session the Afghans went ahead as Shahid brought up his own half century. Kevin O’Brien was tried for a few overs to break the partnership but it was Andy Mc who broke it, getting Shahidi LBW for 61, 198/3.
The new ball was taken at 80 overs (223/3) as Ireland pressed for further inroads. The supporters had decided a rota of leaving the box would help bring luck, so Martha was off to get some supplies. With only three more runs added, Tim took the all-important wicket of Rahmat Shah, with an innocuous delivery. I thought it was slightly slower out of the hand, but no matter it was chopped onto the stumps and Rahmat departed for 98. Very unlucky as he really deserved his 100, but that’s cricket!
The very next over, the dangerous Nabi was removed by a catch from JCD off Thommo for 0. With that Martha walked back into the box to the acclaim of her peers – that’s two wickets you’ve brought us.
We Cricket supporters are sometimes very superstitious and will grab onto anything if it seems to work. Tea is reached, 242/5, the skipper Ashgar still at the crease. Shortly after tea, Ikram is bowled by McBrine for 7 and Rashid joins the captain. Ashgar is imperious in his strokeplay and continues to build the lead further. In the 97th over, Rashid launches Dockrell for a four and a six before producing a ball that straightened to dismiss him lbw, 272/7. Wendy claims this one on her return from the loo! No sooner had Mira left our box when George produced a similar ball to claim Ahmadzai LBW in the 99th over.
Ashgar was still there though and now started clearing the boundary more regularly. He brought up his 50 in 100th over and the teams 300 soon after. Thommo returned to the attack and forced Ashgar into cutting a bottom edge into Stuey’s gloves. Thankfully he was gone but not before he had recorded 67 fabulous runs. Thommo wrapped up the innings in 106th as the last batsman wafted timidly into Balbos waiting hands at a wide slip position. 314 all out.
A minor miracle I suppose, in only limiting the lead to only 142 after that enormous third wicket partnership. Derek Dockrell then walked in and claimed the last five wickets as he walked round the ground (the wrong way) as they all fell.
Twelve overs were left when Stirlo and William stepped out for the start of our second innings. A feather touch through to the keeper two balls in saw William depart. Not a very good start. Balbo joined Stirlo at the crease and avoiding any major issues saw us through to the close on 22/1.
Optimism prevailed as we set about our analysis of the days play. Hope that tomorrow will bring a greater determination and spirit to overcome the deficit and post a target to challenge the Afghans in the fourth innings. Before then it was off to the bars to try and find some coverage of the six nations. My money is on France, Ireland and England, good luck!