Pakistan braved the early swing coupled with ideal cloudy conditions to complete a five-wicket victory over Test debutants Ireland on the fifth day in the one-off Test in Dublin on Tuesday (May 15).
While Babar Azam shook off the jitters with a solid half-century (59 off 114 balls), it was Imam-ul-Haq (74* off 121) who steadied the ship after Pakistan’s collapse of 14 for 3 gave the hosts a shoe in to the front door. In the end, the 126-run partnership between the duo for the fourth wicket ensured Pakistan wouldn’t become the fourth team to lose after enforcing the follow-on.
Having managed to push the match till the final day, centurion Kevin O’Brien couldn’t kick on and fell when he chased a wide ball, his first ball of the morning, to be caught at slip by Haris Sohail off Mohammad Abbas. Despite a solid effort from Tyron Kane, who stuck around for 96 balls for his 14 runs, Ireland were bowled out six overs after O’Brien’s dismissal for 339, setting a target of 160 for Pakistan.
In wrapping up the Ireland innings, Abbas earned his second five-wicket haul of his fledgling Test career and career-best match figures of 9 for 110.
It seemed poetic that the first wicket of the Pakistan innings fell courtesy of Tim Murtagh, the leader of the Irish bowling attack, in the first over itself with Azhar Ali hopping around and succumbing to perfect line and length, Paul Stirling pouching a brilliant catch at first slip. Irish hopes were further bolstered when Murtagh and Boyd Rankin took a wicket apiece in consecutive overs to reduce Pakistan to 14 for 3.
Murtagh and Rankin, along with Stuart Thompson and Kane, kept up the pace and chased the edges of both Babar and Imam relentlessly. But the duo settled in after lunch and punished the bad balls, chipping away at the target.
Babar’s run-out at the hands of Andrew Balbirnie and Sarfraz Ahmed getting trapped leg before by Thompson, came too little, too late for Ireland. Despite the loss, the hosts managed to impress all with their first outing in Test cricket.