Asghar Stanikzai scored a century on Day One (file pic). PA Archive/PA Images
tough day at the office

Ireland struggle to contain Afghanistan as hosts seize advantage in crucial game on road to Test cricket

It was a tough day in the field for John Bracewell’s men.

LET’S START WITH the positive. Three wickets late on the opening day of this crucial Intercontinental Cup fixture will have given Ireland a semblance of encouragement, although the reality is that they are already fighting to stay in the contest.

Asghar Stanikzai’s destructive century has helped Afghanistan seize control of the four-day game in Greater Noida, with Ireland’s bowlers toiling in the 40 degrees heat.

The hosts are well on course to score over 400 in their first innings, finishing the opening day on 357/6, and with the pitch expected to deteriorate as the game progresses, Ireland are facing a huge task against Afghanistan’s spinners.

Stanikzai’s unbeaten 110 included five sixes as he, Mohammed Shahzad (85) and Nasir Jamal (73) tucked into anything loose and punished Ireland’s attack with typical disdain.

With a fourth-wicket partnership of 144, Stanikzai and Nasir Jamal threatened to take the game away from John Bracewell’s side but Peter Chase struck with the second new ball to limit the damage before the close.

Andy McBrine and George Dockrell then struck in quick succession but Niall O’Brien admitted afterwards that it was a gruelling day in the field.

“It’s been a tough day obviously as we’ve only picked up six wickets,” said O’Brien.

“However those three wickets near the end, especially the important one of Mohammed Nabi has given us some encouragement. Hopefully we’ll come back fresh in the morning and be batting by lunchtime.”

Ireland will hope to take the final four wickets on Wednesday morning but whenever they do get the chance to bat, they’re likely to face a trial by spin with teenage leg-spinner Rashid Khan causing serious problems during the recent ODI series.

Ireland came into this game in pole position in the race to qualify for the much-coveted Test playoff. The winner of the 2016-17 I-Cup will face the country sitting in 10th in the Test standings (most likely Zimbabwe) in a home-and-away playoff.

ICC Intercontinental Cup, Greater Noida, Day 1 of 4

Afghanistan 357-6 (96 overs; A Stanikzai 110*, M Shahzad 85, N Jamal 73, R Shah 46, J Anderson 2-68, A McBrine 2-76)

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