Michael Lowe (CricketEurope)
Day 4 Ė the end of the road
After the nonsense with the taxis on day three, we left a little earlier today. Picked up with no problems it was plain sailing, hopefully a good sign for the day ahead. Within 10 minutes of leaving I hear. ĎIíve forgotten the tickets, they are at the hotel, and you didnít remind me!í So really Iíve forgotten the tickets, but we are not turning back for them and proceed to the ground through the security gates without any problem. I suspect they are used to us by now.
The boys limber up for an important session or two (thatís all it will be one way or the other), with an intense football warm-up. 118 runs or 9 wickets required, Dockrell opens from the southern end, Murtagh from the northern. Two edges to the boundary in Timís first over are followed by three maidens.
With the score on 18, Insahlah drives uppishly to Thommo at short extra cover. The chance for an early breakthrough though is gone as Stuart surprisingly spills the chance. He seemed to have so much time I think he was surprised by the lack of speed on the ball. The rest of the team rally in support and they fight on to seek the elusive second wicket. 19 runs are scored off the first ten overs.
George is presented with a difficult fingertip ct and bld by Shah but it is just out of reach. Thommo replaces Tim in the first bowling change of the day. A boundary brings up the 50 partnership in 28th. Andy McBrine comes on at the Northern end after Thommoís one over and the Afghans reach half way to their target in the 31st. 78/1 at Drinks off 32, the Afghans scored at just on 3 an over in the first hour.
Play will be over around lunchtime at this rate unless something special happens. Rahmat Shah then sweeps to bring up his 50 in 35th. A glorious 6 from Insahlah brings up the 100 in 38th and a boundary off the last ball of the over from Andy secures the 100 partnership. JCD replaces Andy in the 40th and Insahlah moves on to 50 with a boundary. A half appeal from George for a ct and bld lifts the gloom for a second but it is clearly a bump ball. With the winning total only a boundary away, Shah runs down the wicket, is beaten by the spin and Stuey comfortably stumps him by some distance for 76.
144/2 Nabi comes to the wicket looking to score the winning runs. He turns the ball off his legs fine and calls for an improbable two. The throw from Tim and dive by Stuey run him out by a foot for 1. 145/3. Victory is secured off the next ball as Shahidi launches the ball to the mid-wicket fence.
Rahmat Shah deservedly takes the Man of the Match accolade. His partnerships of 130 for the 3rd wicket in the first innings and 139 for the second wicket in the second innings were the real difference between winning and losing a test match. He is a class bat who shows real potential in the longer game.
A game which was dominated by the Afghans in large parts was well fought by the Irish team by taking the possibility of an unlikely victory into the fourth innings. The reality is that the match was probably lost on the first morning when 8 wickets fell. There was no real way back from there.
Ireland had their moments, the 10th wicket stands in both innings, taking the last five wickets for 87 runs in their first, the Balbirnie/ McCollum partnership in our second innings and the 16 over session at the end of day three where they squeezed the Afghans tightly.
All in all it was not enough to overcome the disaster of the first morning but all of the players will learn from the highs and lows a test of this nature has to offer and will be better Test players for it.
The supporters, journalists, players and coaching staff shared an evening of food and drink at the teamís hotel in Dehradun after the game, all able to relax and chill in the aftermath of the tours final days play.
New friendships have been forged and old ones rekindled, but each of us will be heading home over the next few days, safe in the knowledge that we will all be better for the experience.