DUBLIN: Not even a spirited late-order recovery by Pakistan could dent Ireland’s pride as their men’s side finally made a long-awaited Test debut on Saturday.
There was a huge sense of anti-climax when Friday’s scheduled opening day of this stand-alone match at Dublin’s Malahide ground was washed out without a ball bowled.
But when Ireland captain William Porterfield won the toss, on a sunny Saturday morning beneath blue skies, his side officially became only the 11th nation in the 141-year history of men’s Test cricket.
And having waited more than a century for Ireland’s first Test wicket, two then came along at once as new-ball duo Boyd Rankin and Tim Murtagh struck with successive deliveries to leave Pakistan 13 for two.
Despite a fine fifty from top-order batsman Asad Shafiq, Pakistan continued to lose wickets before an unbeaten seventh-wicket partnership of 109 between Shadab Khan (52 not out) and Faheem Ashraf (61 not out) turned the tide to leave the tourists 268 for six when bad light and a heavy downpour led to an early close.
“They got away from us a little at the end, with edges flying over gully, over slip,” said Ireland’s Gary Wilson, blocked at first slip when diving wicket-keeper Niall O’Brien missed a chance to catch Test debutant Faheem when the left-hander was on 36.
“Then one went between Niall and myself so it could have a very different end to the day. We could have been right on top if those had gone to hand.”
– ‘Lucky ones’ –
Nevertheless, Wilson added: “It’s a very proud moment for everyone but for everyone involved in Irish cricket and to be presented with a (Test) cap this morning was brilliant.
“Everyone recognises what the 688 people (the previous number of Ireland men’s internationals) who had gone before us.
“They were on our minds and we were definitely the lucky ones that got their caps this morning, a great moment.”
Prior to this match, the 36-year-old Murtagh had taken 712 first-class wickets in 210 games but he was in no doubt as to what Saturday meant for Irish cricket.
“The presentation of the caps — a few players kept their sunglasses on in case a few tears came running down, it was a nice occasion,” he said.
“It was a magic feeling to get my first wicket, I was happy for Boyd to take the first and then to get the next one, next ball was special.”
The Middlesex paceman added: “Test cricket has always been a priority for me and it’s fantastic that it has come round in my lifetime.”
A crowd of just under 5,000 gave plenty of vocal encouragement to Ireland and they were in full voice following Rankin and Murtagh’s early strikes.
“The noise for those first couple of wickets was great, they really got behind us and that helped with the adrenaline pumping and gave us an extra spring in our steps as bowlers,” said Murtagh.
Meanwhile Shafiq, in at 13 for two, was proud to play the innings Pakistan needed in the absence of retired batsmen Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan.
“I always wanted to bat up the order, like three of four,” explained Shafiq.
“So did the coach, Mickey Arthur and Sarfraz (Ahmed, the Pakistan captain), especially after the retirements of Misbah and Younis, so it’s now my responsibility to take that number four position.”
Saturday’s early close may have disappointed cricket purists, but it was not all bad news as it allowed Malahide spectators who were also rugby union fans to watch live television coverage of Dublin-based Leinster’s 15-12 European Champions Cup final win over Paris club Racing 92 in Bilbao.