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Match Report

Day 2

Pakistan were 159-6, the sun was shining, the 5,000-strong crowd at Malahide Cricket Club were cheering every delivery, and Ireland's first full day of Test cricket was promising to be one of the great days of Irish sport.

Sarfraz Ahmed, the Pakistan captain, was walking slowly and disconsolately towards the pavilion.

Stuart Thompson, the Ireland seamer, was being mobbed by his team-mates.

Paul Stirling, hand held triumphantly in the air after a sharp catch, was hailing the noisy supporters at the Malahide Castle end of Test cricket's newest venue.

Fast forward a couple of hours, and those Ireland players now understand why Test cricket has traditionally been viewed as the ultimate examination of a team's talent and mental strength.

The game had moved on quickly. The scoreboard had moved on quickly, to 268-6.

Shadab Khan and Faheem Ashraf, the Pakistan all-rounders, had shared an unbeaten 109 partnership for the seventh wicket.

And the tourists had regained the initiative after Friday's opening-day washout, to set up an intriguing third day of play tomorrow.

Ireland first gatecrashed international cricket's cosy cartel during the 2007 World Cup, when a gaggle of part-time cricketers stunned Pakistan at Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica.

That team, a pugnacious outfit led by the fiery Australian Trent Johnston, made up for their technical inferiority with a fighting spirit that unnerved their smooth, professional opponents.

And the first ball of the first morning set a similar tone for the first day of Ireland's first Test match.

Azhar Ali called his opening partner, Iman-Ul-Haq, through for a quick single.

Niall O'Brien, the Ireland wicket-keeper, and Tyrone Kane, the Ireland seam bowler, hurled themselves toward the ball and accidentally floored Pakistan debutant Iman, yet to face a delivery in Test cricket, with a one-two combination.

The Pakistan opening pair struggled to settle after that.

This was no "céad míle fáilte", the hundred thousand welcomes of a hundred thousand Irish tourist board campaigns.

Sarfraz, the Pakistan captain, spoke on Thursday about how honoured he and his team felt to be invited to become Ireland's first opponents in Test cricket, following their promotion to Test and Full Member status in June 2017.

But Boyd Rankin and Tim Murtagh, Ireland's new-ball bowling partnership, were in no mood to offer any thank-you gifts to their visitors.

Rankin struck first, in the final ball of the eighth over, with a climbing delivery that found Azhar's edge and was easily pocketed by William Porterfield, the Ireland captain, at second slip.

Murtagh struck the very next ball, pinning Iman, the nephew of former Pakistan captain and current chairman of selectors Inzaman-Ul-Haq, lbw in front of middle and leg stump.

And Ireland were inches away from completing a team hat-trick of three dismissals in the three balls, when Thompson caught non-striker Haris Sohail dawdling down the pitch only to miss the stumps with his sharp throw from the covers.

Things calmed down a little after that. This is Test cricket after all, a game of nuance and applied pressure.

Sohail and Asad Shafiq began the slow rebuild of the innings until the lunch break, but Ireland made their third breakthrough when Sohail undid all good work in the morning session with a loose steer off a Thompson delivery, straight to Porterfield at gully.

Every time the Pakistan batsmen opened the shoulders and threatened to take the game away from the hosts, Ireland struck back.

Murtagh, bowling his trademark tight line outside off stump, found the edge of Babar Azam and the bucket hands of Stirling at second slip.

Shafiq pulled a Rankin bouncer straight to Andrew Balbirnie at square leg, then captain Sarfraz gifted Ireland a sixth wicket by wafting at a Thompson delivery outside off stump.

Two foolish shots from two of Pakistan's most experienced batsman, two of only four players in the line-up with 20 caps or more, and Pakistan were rocking at 159-6.

So it was left to Shadab, the 19-year-old leg-spinner playing only his second Test, and debutant Faheem Ashraf to show their more experienced team-mates how to build a partnership.

By the time the teams came off for bad light at 5.27pm, the clouds bringing a unexpected hail storm following a day of unrelenting sunshine on the north Dublin coast, Pakistan were in charge and well placed to post a 350+ total.

"There is a slight sense of disappointment, because we got the ball swinging for the majority of the day," Murtagh admitted.

"The partnership at the end has taken it a little bit away from us.

"There was bit of tiredness in the legs towards the end, probably because of a recent lack of cricket for the whole squad.

"But we are into the new ball early in the morning, so we will get through these four overs, and then hope to nip out these last four wickets as quickly as we can."

Day 3

Day 3 of Ireland's first ever Test is one that few will forget after William Porterfield's side were forced to follow-on after a dominant bowling display from Pakistan.

Resuming overnight on 268-6 the visitors added 42 more runs for the loss of 3 further wickets before declaring half an hour before lunch to get a quick bowl at the home side.

It was shortly after the wicket of Faheen Ashraf that sparked the declaration - his innings of 83 (9 fours and a six) ended by Stuart Thompson (3-62).

Tim Murtagh (4-45) was the pick of the bowlers while Boyd Rankin (2-75) also made his mark.

That declaration however soon had Ireland in trouble as Mohammad Abbas (4-44) and Mohammad Amir (2-9) had the hosts reeling at 5-3 before lunch and 7-4 straight after it.

Kevin O'Brien led a rearguard action before being out for 40 and despite that and a sterling effort from the injured Gary Wilson batting at 9 who made 33 not out, the reply ended on a disappointing 130 all out.

Pakistan decided to twist the knife and asked Ireland to follow on, however this time Ed Joyce and skipper Porterfield got it spot on.

Joyce- so unlucky to be adjudged lbw in the first innings - batted beautifully to finish the day on 39 not out while his captain was 23 not out as Ireland showed real fight.

They will resume on Monday morning on 64-0, still 116 runs in arrears, but it's a much better picture than many had feared at tea.

Day 4

Kevin O'Brien wrote himself into the record books again at Malahide by scoring Ireland's first Test century, an epic knock that allowed the new boys to dream of a comeback victory over Pakistan that would match any of the storylines in the game's rich history.

The owner of the fastest World Cup century - that stunning 50-ball effort against England in 2011 - took 186 deliveries to reach the mark this time, with 10 fours, and added two more to reach stumps on 118 not out, with Ireland 319-7 and leading by 139.

O'Brien has looked a veteran of the Test arena in his first five-day match.

He scored a quality 40 in the first innings before flailing into the covers but gave no chances yesterday as he dominated the pace and spin of Pakistan, quietly accumulating ones and twos interspersed by powerful drives.

A potentially match-winning lead was something the home side could not begin to imagine before Stuart Thompson joined O'Brien in a seventh-wicket partnership of 114 that spanned across the tea interval.

Thompson, so long the talented under-achiever, showed why the selectors have stuck with him as he went to a half-century with his sixth boundary, a fierce pull through mid-wicket, but fell for 53 when he was beaten on the back foot and bowled by a sharp leg-spinner.

"It was a very proud, emotional moment for me," O'Brien said.

"It means joining an elite band who have scored centuries on their Test debut and it has also given us a great chance of going on and winning the game.

"It's a new-ball pitch and one or two are starting to keep low as we head towards the end so if we can bat on for another hour and a half, get the lead up to 170 and then nip a couple out early on then you never know.

"It's still sinking in but I think my Bangalore century is still my favourite but it'll be nice to get this one up on the imaginary honours board."

Ed Joyce, a sentimental favourite to score that first Test century, had added a cover-driven boundary to his overnight 39 when he ran himself out, calling for a single to wide mid-on and finding his 39-year-old legs just unable to beat a direct hit.

Andy Balbirnie followed, lbw for a second time, as he became the unwanted owner of Ireland's first pair of ducks, while Niall O'Brien lost two stumps after making a chaotic 18 in which he could have run himself out for nought and gave skipper William Porterfield a mighty scare.

The Ireland captain's 120-ball stay was ended on 32 by a slip catch, Paul Stirling was struck on the front pad as his bat made contact too late and when Gary Wilson edged to slip Ireland were still 23 behind with only four wickets in hand.

O'Brien and Thompson then began to drain the urgency from the fielding side, or maybe the visitors just fancied enjoying the local hospitality for another night, because taking the second new ball with only one or two slips in place and very little aggression all but ensured a fifth day - and what a thriller it could be.

Day 5

THERE was no miracle in Malahide as Ireland's dream of becoming only the second team to win their first Test match was ended 10 minutes before tea.

A partnership of 120 between debutant Imam Ul-Haq and Babar Azam foiled the Ireland attack as Pakistan reached their victory target of 160 with five wickets to spare, but Ireland, rightly, walked off the field with their heads held high and a standing ovation from the fifth day crowd.

Trailing by 180 on first innings, Ireland had no right to be even contemplating victory on the final day - after all, only three teams in the history of Test cricket, 2,302 games before this one - had won after being asked to follow-on.

Indeed, only one of the previous nine inaugural Test matches had gone into the fifth day, but man of the match Kevin O'Brien's herculean effort on Monday had ensured it would happen this time and three early wickets in the Pakistan second innings had Ireland daring to dream.

But it proved to be one innings too far for Ireland's limited attack with O'Brien exhausted after his batting efforts and Paul Stirling's occasional spin not used. As a result, Tim Murtagh, who persuaded his captain to let him bowl 16 overs, and Boyd Rankin sent down all but three of the first 23 overs, either side of lunch, despite 38 runs coming off the first six after the break.

But Tyrone Kane, so much more effective with the new ball, despite being belatedly introduced, along with Stuart Thompson, forced Pakistan to fight all the way to the finish, the Eglinton skipper ending the century stand with a run-out and then taking his fourth Test wicket.

The biggest disappointment of the day came from the seventh delivery - O'Brien's first - when, still not fully focused, Ireland's first Test centurion attempted to cut Mohammed Abbas but it went straight into the hands of first slip and hopes of Ireland getting a psychologically important 200-lead went with him.

Abbas followed up with the wickets of Rankin, who played on when attempting a leave, and finally knocked over the stumps of Tyrone Kane after batting for more than two hours and facing 96 balls. It gave the accurate right arm opening bowler five wickets in the innings for the second time and nine wickets in the match, and confirmed him as a major player in Pakistan's victory.

Pakistan had lost three Test matches without reaching 160 when batting fourth and when they were reduced to 14-3 in the fifth over, Ireland's odds of an historic first win had tumbled to 100/30.

Murtagh struck in the first over, an outswinger which Azhar Ali could only guide into the bucket hands of Paul Stirling at first slip, Rankin followed up in his second over with the wicket of Haris Sohail, superbly caught low down by Ed Joyce in the gully and when Murtagh bowled the experienced Asad Shafiq five balls later Ireland were in dreamland.

In two of the last seven Tests when Pakistan had batted last, they had been bowled out for 36 and 42, but the chance of it happening again had evaporated by lunch when the tourists had reached 52 without further loss.

The decisive period in the chase proved to be those six overs after the break when also, fatally, Andrew Balbirnie dropped Babar. It was by no means an easy chance, diving to his right at third slip, but he got both hands to it and when it went down, it just felt that the chance of Ireland making history had gone down with it.

Sure enough, the fourth wicket pair did not offer another chance and it needed some reckless running - a feature of this match - for Ireland to make the breakthrough. When Imam played the ball into the covers, Babar set off down the pitch but his partner had no intention of leaving his crease. Balbirnie swooped and although not the greatest throw it was close enough to the stumps for Thompson to gather above his head and take off the bails.

When Thompson had Pakistan captain Sarfraz leg before with still eight runs required, there was a renewed effort in the Ireland ranks but three overs later Imam, fittingly, turned Tyrone Kane through square leg for the winning runs and relief all round in the visitors' dressing room.

Next up they a two-Test series against England, starting on Thursday week at Lord's, the venue that Ireland are now one match closer to appearing at in their fledging life as the 11th Test nation.

It will be no more than they deserve.

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