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'This match has gone a long way to inspiring the next generation'

Ireland captain William Porterfield hopes young cricket fans will dream of playing for their country after this week’s inaugural Test match.

Porterfield speaking after the conclusion of the Test match earlier.
Porterfield speaking after the conclusion of the Test match earlier.
Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Ryan Bailey reports from Malahide 

YEARS OF HARD work in the making, and then it comes and goes in a flash but William Porterfield hopes Ireland’s inaugural Test match will leave a lasting legacy and inspire a generation.

An occasion filled with emotion and pride, Ireland dared to dream during a frenetic half an hour this morning but, in the end, were beaten in their maiden Test, suffering the same fate as eight of the other 10 full member nations.

No team has won their first Test since 1877, and none have come closer than Ireland, with Porterfield’s side pushing Pakistan all the way over the course of a gripping match, which ebbed and flowed and saw the momentum shift between both sides.

Although disappointed not to defy history and pull off a famous win, Ireland will be able to take great heart from their performance and certainly a gloriously fulfilling week leaves huge grounds for optimism going forward.

“I’m extremely proud of how we went about it,” Porterfield said at the end of the game.

“All five days it was a hell of an effort. It was our first Test match and it was tough on the first day, we struggled a bit with the emotions. There were 11 caps being handed out, we had all our family and friends here and with all the build up to the game there were a lot of emotions for every lad, so to go out and start how we did was fantastic.

“We carried that through pretty much throughout that first day and throughout the game really, putting aside when we went out to bat in the first innings, I’m sure a lot of the lads would like to have that opportunity again.”

Ireland will, naturally, look back on their first innings when they were bowled out for 130 as the key passage of play in the Test and ultimately that’s what lost them the game, particularly when you consider how well they performed either side of the batting collapse.

There was also more than a hint of regret over how they lost their final three second innings wickets cheaply this morning, leaving Pakistan with a relatively modest victory target of 160 when an extra 50-60 runs could have caused the visitors serious problems.

Paul Stirling and William Porterfield embrace after the game Ireland players after Pakistan secured a five-wicket win. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

As it was, Pakistan had debutant Imam-ul-Haq to thank as he steadied the ship after the visitors slumped to 14 for three before lunch on the fifth day.

22-year-old left-handed Imam responded to the pressure with 74 not out — his maiden fifty at this level — and together with Babar Azam, who made 59 after being dropped on nine by Andrew Balbirnie, kept Ireland at bay during a fourth-wicket stand of 126.

“It would have been nice to get an extra few runs this morning but at 14/3 we were sitting there thinking we’ve got a proper sniff against a quality line-up,” Porterfield continued.

“If we’d got another couple then and broken that partnership a bit earlier it could have been game on, but how the lads acquitted themselves throughout the five days I can’t fault anyone at all.

“The biggest thing was how we fought back with the bat in the second innings. That shows the character that we’ve had. It’s something that’s been talked about through big occasions like World Cups, how we’ve acquitted ourselves there. I think that’s always been known to be there.

“But Test cricket is Test cricket for a reason, it’s there in the name; you do get tested and we were after the first innings. We could have gone back out and with 25-30 overs left at the end of day three Pakistan could have knocked a few over then and people would have had different thoughts about the game. How we went about that to get up close to 350 just showed what we’ve got in the changing rooms and the passion that we’ve got.”

Overall, it was a hugely positive week for Irish cricket with a healthy crowd in attendance on each of the five days and Porterfield hopes a debut Test will help get more bums on seats going forward, or indeed attract more young kids to take up the game.

“I’m sure in the next week or two there’s going to be hundreds of kids aspiring to be Kevin O’Brien in backstreet cricket,” the captain added. “We’ve got to inspire the next generation like we got inspired growing up by the likes of Dekker Curry where I’m from. I looked up to him when I was growing up and I’m sure there’s a lot of young cricketers doing the same to ourselves.

“The more we can spread the game, the more bums on seats there’s going to be here, the more depth we’re going to have. This Test match has gone a long way to providing the next generation of cricketers I’m sure.”

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

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Ryan Bailey

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