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Ireland denied dream victory on Test debut as Ul-Haq steers Pakistan home

A superb effort from Ireland comes up just short at Malahide, as Pakistan win by five wickets.

Ireland pushed Pakistan all the way but came up just short.
Ireland pushed Pakistan all the way but came up just short.
Image: Charles McQuillan

Updated May 15th 2018, 5:32 PM

Ryan Bailey reports from Malahide

ALAS, A GAP too wide to bridge, but Ireland heroically and stoically played their part in a gripping Test match which ebbed and flowed and was still very much in the balance deep into the fifth day, before Pakistan retained their composure to maintain status quo.

There was to be no fairytale ending to a gloriously fulfilling week in Malahide during which Irish cricket scaled new heights, but — again — this was a performance of immense character and courage, right up until the death as they pushed Pakistan all the way.

For a frenetic half an hour before lunch, Ireland dared to dream as they tucked into the Pakistan top-order, reducing the visitors to 14 for three, but Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam took the game away from the hosts with a fourth-wicket stand of 126.

Emboldened by Kevin O’Brien’s history-making century yesterday evening, Ireland looked to put further pressure on Pakistan with the bat but, in a huge blow to their hopes, lost O’Brien to his first ball of the day.

Tyrone Kane, Boyd Rankin and Tim Murtagh briefly provided tail-end resistance, but Mohammed Abbas wasted little time in cleaning the innings up to complete his five-wicket haul, and finish with match figures of 9-110.

Abbas did all the damage as Ireland lost their final three wickets for just 20 runs, setting Pakistan a target of 160 to win, and a fiery opening spell from Murtagh and Rankin fuelled belief that the improbable was not impossible after all.

Only three sides in the 141-year history of Test cricket have won after being made to follow on and only one men’s team — Australia in the inaugural Test against England at Melbourne in 1877 — have enjoyed a victory in their debut match at this level.

Kevin O'Brien dejected after being caught by Haris Sohail  on his first ball of the day Kevin O'Brien was dismissed on his first ball of the day. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

But Ireland were quickly into the task and, backed by vocal fifth day crowd, had Pakistan in disarray, leaving their head coach Mickey Arthur to hold his head in his hands as he watched his side lose three early wickets.

Just four balls into the chase, Azhar Ali stepped down the pitch in a bid to negate the new-ball movement but could only edge Murtagh to Paul Stirling at first slip. Game on.

And Ireland scented a famous victory when Rankin found the outside edge of Haris Sohail, with Ed Joyce taking a superb low catch at gully, and Asad Shafiq had his off-stump uprooted by a Murtagh delivery which nipped back through the gate.

Ireland’s tails were up, but 22-year-old Ul-Haq showed maturity beyond his years to drop anchor and take the sting out of the Irish onslaught, as he punched two boundaries through point and cover off Stuart Thompson to ease the pressure.

Ul-Haq was there at the end to see his side over the line, but not without a late rally from Ireland as Azam was run out for 59 and Thompson further augmented his impressive Test performance by trapping Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed in front.

A hugely commendable display by Ireland on Test debut and while several senior players, including Ed Joyce, are expected to now retire, this landmark week has provided enough reasons to be cheerful for the future.

Ireland are a Test nation, and are fully deserving of their seat at the top table. Onwards and very much upwards.

Test match, day five, close:

Pakistan: 310/9 dec (Faheem Ashraf 83, Asad Shafiq 62, Shadab Khan 55; T Murtagh 4-45, S Thompson 3-62)

Ireland: 130 all out (Mohammad Abbas 4-44, Shadab Khan 3-31)

Ireland (second innings): 339 all out (K O’Brien 118, S Thompson 53)

Pakistan (second innings): 160/5 (17 overs) (Imam-ul-Haq 74*, T Murtagh 4-45)

Pakistan win by five wickets. 

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A ‘very proud and emotional moment’ for O’Brien fuels Ireland’s bold belief

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Ryan Bailey

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