Ireland vs Pakistan: In almost-perfect Test debut, William Porterfield and Co discover hardships of international cricket

Good things come to those who wait — as the famous Guinness ad campaign ran — and for much of the day, Ireland set about proving it.

Test cricket’s newest team has certainly done its fair share of waiting, not only the years preceding this historic game but also the washed out first day of the Test.

However that display of patience over, the Irish didn‘t have to wait long for things to turn good for them on Day Two in Malahide.

Ireland players celebrate a Pakistan wicket on Saturday. Image courtesy: Twitter

Boyd Rankin already has one Test debut under his belt, a solitary England cap earned at the end of their hellish 2013/14 Ashes tour, but you suspect he might enjoy this one a little more. With the final ball of the eighth over he carved himself out a little piece of history, nipping one off the splice of Azhar Ali’s bat to give Ireland their first Test wicket.

As if to prove waiting was no longer something for Irish cricket to concern itself with, Tim Murtagh struck with the very next ball of the match, straightening one into the pads of fellow debutant Imam-ul-Haq — suddenly Pakistan were 13/2 and being comfortably outplayed.

For all that Ireland are the Test debutants, this is not a Pakistan side all that big on experience itself and so it fell to one of the few batsmen with more than a dozen caps to his name, Asad Shafiq, to rescue things.

The almost imperceptible fluctuations of control in Test cricket are arguably what sets it apart from other sports, a position of command is never snatched back by the batting side in the blink of an eye but rather inch by inch over a period of minutes and hours.

Either side of the lunch break, that is exactly what Shafiq set about doing, and briefly it looked as if Pakistan were going to restore the expected order of things — however, Ireland had not waited this long for their Test bow to simply wilt and were soon asserting their dominance on the game once more.

Stuart Thompson became his country’s third Test wicket-taker, before Murtagh and Rankin briefly tussled over the title of Ireland’s leading Test wicket-taker — just over 20 overs later the trio were tied on two apiece and Pakistan were struggling at 159/6. As debut days go, this one was going perfectly for Ireland.

In fact for nearly two sessions almost everything went perfectly for Ireland — they won the toss, they never let Pakistan take charge, they held all their catches — but as every team discovers before too long, Test cricket requires more than that.

One bad session is all it takes for things to quickly go wrong and as the final session wore on things tipped back in Pakistan’s favour. That they did is thanks to the young and highly exciting pair of Shadab Khan and Faheem Ashraf, the latter making his debut while the former in just his second Test, who wrestled their team back into things with a vital partnership.

On the evidence of Saturday, the duo, both finds by Islamabad United from the Pakistan Super League, looks like having long international careers ahead, capitalising on Ireland’s first mistakes — as twice Ashraf was dropped behind the wicket — to sour the day for the hosts.

Ultimately when bad light and rain cut the day short, it was probably more of a relief for Ireland than Pakistan, with both batsmen passing their half centuries to take the visitors to 268/6 at the close.

While Ireland waited a long time to be given a crack at Test cricket, in the end it took them only a day to discover just how hard its challenge can be.

Updated Date: May 13, 2018 08:11 AM

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