Andy Balbirnie was left wondering what might have been in Abu Dhabi last night as Afghanistan fought back to parity against Ireland on the second day of the one-off Test at the Tolerance Oval.

Paul Stirling scored a half-century and four other Ireland batsman passed 30 but none went on to make a telling contribution and a total of 263 all out - and a first innings lead of 108 - was useful but not match defining.

Ireland’s attack then had to battle strong winds in the final session and saw their advantage disappear as the hosts closed on 134-3 despite Mark Adair again removing batting star Rahmat Shah cheaply.

“It was hard going out there,” skipper Balbirnie said. “They set good fields and restricted our scoring shots. We talked about going on and getting big scores but the pitch was taking spin from day one and we knew it would be tricky.”

After losing Harry Tector for his overnight 32, Stirling and Lorcan Tucker dominated the morning session with a partnership of 80 that took Ireland into a lead of 31 with five wickets in hand.

But Stirling, who struck seven boundaries in a well-constructed 52, was bowled through the gate by left-arm wrist spinner Zahir Khan in the last over before lunch - a pivotal moment, perhaps - and Tucker edged to slip on 46 after the interval.

“Paul batted really well and it was disappointing that he got out when he did,” Balbirnie said. “Most of the leggies he’d faced had been been pretty straight but that one was thrown up outside off stump and sometimes you just get a good ball.”

Andy McBrine was last out for a handy 38 and Adair again struck twice with the new ball thanks in part to a stunning left-handed catch in the gully by PJ Moor that Balbirnie described as the best he had seen during his Ireland career.

Adair also had Rahmat caught behind for nine but the brutal conditions restricted the skipper’s options, and the only further success went to Barry McCarthy who got a delivery to rear and produce a lob to gully.

“I felt we leaked a few runs in that final session and we’ve got to start well in the morning,” Balbirnie said. 

“They’re effectively 26-3 and they’ve got a lot of bowlers in their line-up. It’s pretty evenly poised and the next hour is going to play a big part in the result.”