Ireland earned respect and admiration alike throughout the cricket world, missing out on a historic victory against Pakistan today in Malahide.
The Irish showed amazing character and fight to produce a possible miracle result against the heavy favourites, Pakistan. To Ireland’s credit, they took the match to the fifth day and it looked as if they were in for a possible shock result before Pakistan took control of the match to take the win.
Pakistan have won by 5 wickets. We may not have got the win, but it was a fantastic effort from every one of our team on a historic occasion. They’ve done us proud.
— Cricket Ireland (@Irelandcricket) May 15, 2018
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. A great way to start their Test cricket journey.
Irrespective of the result, Ireland had shown going into the final day that they belonged in test cricket, and their final day performance further rubber stamped this statement – arriving into the Test cricket world with notable merit.
Overall, the display was full of positives and although it wasn’t perfect over the five days, Ireland showed that they can absolutely compete in Test cricket at a high level. The experience alone from playing this Test match is so important and it’s given them a global introduction to further enhance cricket in the country.
Ireland entered day four finding themselves at 95-4, still needing 85 runs to avoid an innings defeat. After slipping to 127-5, it seemed as if a heavy defeat was on the horizon. However, O’Brien’s incredible performance helped his side gain a foothold in the match, building a lead of 139 ahead of today’s final innings.
Kevin O’Brien hit an unbeaten 118 to become Ireland’s maiden Test centurion, relishing his test Test debut innings and deservedly winning player of the match.
Ireland added further points to bring their tally to 159 and 339 overall, leaving Pakistan with a 160 to reach. O’Brien’s performance provided the platform for Ireland to produce the possibility of a miracle result in Malahide. Ireland’s second innings came to an end with 339 on the board, as Pakistan required 160 to take the match.
— ICC (@ICC) May 15, 2018
This miracle became an ever-growing reality with Tim Murtagh’s incredible bowling display driving Ireland to a dream start. Murtagh stepped up with two wickets to his name, Azhar Alin was out for 2 off the fourth ball, leaving the game well and truly on.
Boyd Rankin followed up closely with another outing leaving Pakistan 13-2 – before Murtagh claimed his second of the innings bowling out Asad Shafiq as Pakistan moved to 14-3. Murtagh was the key man for Ireland bowling exceptionally, and it was apparent that he was key to any chance of an Irish victory.
The straight bowling showed to be very effective, with the Middlesex bowler bowling his heart out for his country. Only three games in the history of cricket had been won after a follow-on in Test; with Ireland looking to become the fourth on their Test debut.
However, Pakistan steadied the ship through a fine batting performance from Imam-ul-Haq.
Pakistan ended at 52-3 going into lunch with 108 to win – leaving the game delicately poised. Imam’s batting for 33 before lunch saw a recovery from 14-3 to 52-3. Ireland searched for a further resurgence after the lunch break. However, Pakistan continued to bat consistently and the partnership between Imam and Babar Azam set up the favourites for the victory.
Imam continued his impressive display hitting the half-century mark in his test maiden, propelling Pakistan to 93-3 – leaving 67 for the win. Azam equally provided an outstanding display also reaching the half-century mark, as his 52 added to Pakistan’s tally, now at 128-3.
Ireland gained another wicket to keep their hopes alive through Andrew Balbirnie, outing Babar Azam for 59 – bringing the game to 140-4 with Pakistan needing 20 to win. Although it was almost inevitable that the upset was too far gone, Ireland further added to a respectable scoreline and outstanding match in general producing a further outing through Stuart Thompson’s dismissal of Safraz Ahmed for 8, Pakistan now at 152-5.
Pakistan eventually closed out the game, securing 160-5 to take the inaugural test match, with Imam finishing 72 not out to cap off a fine debut display for him.
The partnership built between the two shows great signs for Pakistan’s upcoming test against England in Lords, most notably Imam’s outstanding batting performance. Pakistan have a lot of good young players coming up, and the chance been provided to these young lads in their young careers is giving Pakistan cricket a bright future.
Imam’s selection had been questioned going into the game, but he proved his worth with a very good debut. His innings gave Pakistan the momentum they needed, taking the game to Ireland and engineering the fightback, scoring his third 50 in the Test score – the first two coming in the warm-up games. He’s certainly someone who we will see more of in the future.
Pakistan’s record on fifth day performances was evidently abysmal with only one win in their last nine day five matches. The last coming in Kingston against the Windies. The 7th placed team in the ICC Test Cricket rankings ended this poor day five form with the victory over Ireland.
Regardless of the result, this is one of the most historic days in cricket history and although they might not have won the match, they’ve won the hearts of cricket fans around the world. They produced great determination and tenacity to grind out a fantastic display of cricket and an overall fabulous test match, with the added experience and learning curve going to stand to Ireland in future Test matches.
They made Pakistan fight and never gave up on the match, even when they knew the defeat was inevitable.
Both teams needed this contest and it has shone a positive light on cricket in general. Test cricket needed a good story and Ireland provided this with a respective performance and subsequent justification of their status in Test cricket.
It’s a fantastic start to test cricket and an incredible display, seeing Ireland gravitate to test cricket.
Ireland can be extremely proud and their display gave a basis to compete on equal terms and they certainly do not look like the new boys of Test cricket. These are exciting times for Irish cricket, and there’s no doubt that they can compete.
Even though Ireland failed to qualify for a fourth straight World Cup, their introduction to Test cricket has given them such an important and well-earned establishment into cricket throughout the world.
Ireland have justified their test status. They proved the doubters wrong and have gained respect in the cricket-sphere.
The performance against Pakistan was full of positives, and although the future test match against India will provide a completely different game and possible eye-opener on test cricket – the blocks are there for Ireland to produce a competitive Test cricket team. Losing is part of sport but Ireland gave everything and their performance was admirable, especially considering it was their first ever test cricket match.
The future of Irish cricket is bright.