Ireland beat Afghanistan to claim maiden Test victory

Andrew Balbirnie in action for Ireland. File photo

Ireland finally won their first Test match on Friday when they defeated Afghanistan by six wickets in Abu Dhabi, ending a streak of seven successive losses.

Captain Andy Balbirnie led from the front with an undefeated 58 as Ireland reached their modest target of 111 in the final session of the third day.

Ireland had played their first Test back in 2018 when they were defeated by Pakistan.

“We’re absolutely excited. We’ve created history. The monkey is off the back and it’s very special to do that,” said Balbirnie whose team were wobbling at 13-3 at one stage.

“Obviously there were nerves; we were chasing our first win. You ask this whole group how special this is. A lot of our guys didn’t get to play Test cricket. Hopefully people back home want to be Test cricketers.”

Afghanistan resumed their second innings Friday on 134-3 before they were dismissed for 218.

Skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi top scored with 55 while Rahmanullah Gurbaz, making his Test debut, hit 46.

Mark Adair picked up three wickets to finish with eight for the match. Craig Young and Barry McCarthy also claimed three apiece.

Gurbaz, better known for his flamboyant and explosive shot-making in limited overs cricket, clubbed the only two sixes of the innings.

Chasing just 111 for victory, Ireland were in trouble with three wickets down for just 13 runs with 18-year-old fast bowler Naveed Zadran clean-bowling opener Peter Moor and Curtis Campher, both without scoring.

Balbirnie denied the teenager a hat-trick but Harry Tector was soon caught behind by Gurbaz off Nijat Masood for two.

Balbirnie and Paul Stirling, who both played in Ireland’s debut Test in 2018, briefly steadied dressing room nerves.

Stirling was then caught in the slips off left-arm spinner Zia-ur-Rehman for 14 as Ireland slipped to 39-4 just after tea.

However, Balbirnie moved watchfully to his fourth Test half-century, which came from 86 balls, ably supported by Lorcan Tucker (27 not out) in a crucial winning partnership of 72.

“I think the first day, when we were batting, we let ourselves down,” said Shahidi.

“The Irish seamers were bowling very well but we threw our wickets away.”

He added: “We have some positives. Gurbaz was very positive on debut. Naveed had had a good Test against Sri Lanka, and in this match also he did very well.”

Irish fast bowler Adair said he was “buzzing” with the victory.

“Test cricket is pretty difficult. I think we’ve got a really good bowling group,” he said.

The two teams will now play three one-day internationals and three T20 games as part of their multi-format series.

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