Ireland fall short of improbable victory on Test debut

Only three times in the 141-year history of Test cricket have a side won after following-on but when Pakistan were 14 for three, chasing a modest 160 to win on yesterday's final day of this stand-alone match, it seemed Ireland might mark their entry into the format with a stunning success.

The Irish, resuming on 319 for seven, saw Abbas then take three wickets for 12 runs in 22 balls, the paceman finishing with an innings haul of five for 66 in 28.3 overs.

A magnificent rearguard hundred from Kevin O'Brien gave Ireland a lead of 139 in their maiden Test and the prospect of giving Pakistan an awkward run chase.

Imam's 126-run fourth wicket stand with Babar Azam was enough to break the Irish resistance, but only after Andy Balbirnie let an opportunity to send Babar back to the dressing room early slip through his fingers at third slip.

There was no let up from Ireland and Murtagh claimed his sixth wicket of the match by bowling Asad Shafiq (1), leaving Pakistan three down inside five overs.

The result had appeared to be a foregone conclusion on Sunday when Pakistan made Ireland follow-on due to their 180-run lead, but Kevin O'Brien's century guided the hosts to 339 second time around.

Ireland became the ninth team out of 11 to lose their first ever Test match but there was far more to the story of this historic occasion at Malahide.

The unanimous verdict from the cricket world showed that it was great to see Ireland play Test cricket, and even greater to come out with an extremely competitive performance on their Test debut.

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His effort not just saved Ireland from an embarrassing defeat, but also gave his bowlers some runs to bowl at the visitors that in turn helped them make a match out of it. Babar Azam was with him on 9.

Much like his older brother, he was positive from the start, undoubtedly boosted by being the first-innings' top scorer, and after getting off the mark first ball with an easy single he hit two of his next eight balls to the boundary.

From there, they dragged themselves back into the match and played their way into contention going into the final day against a Test nation stalwart as Pakistan.

Now Sarfraz Ahmed, if only for a few hours perhaps, has to contemplate whether he made a wise move by becoming the first Pakistan captain to enforce a Test follow-on in 16 years.

However, the Dubliner put together a highly composed 118-not-out and coupled with Stuart Thompson's 53, Ireland are now in control.

Soon after, the tourists were breathing a sigh of relief, as Imam, who finished with an unbeaten 74, completed a five-wicket win.

Ireland started the day on their highly creditable overnight 64 without loss. There were a hell of a lot of good things to come out of this game, we played a lot of good cricket. That's always been known to be there but Test cricket is Test cricket for a reason, it's there in the name, you did get tested and we were after the first innings.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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