Ireland off to a damp beginning in Dehradun Test

By Sandipan Banerjee

Dehradun

In Dehradun - India’s first ever neutral Test venue - bowlers had the upper hand as 12 wickets fell on Day 1 of the one-off Test between Afghanistan and Ireland. There was nothing extreme about the pitch but the early morning moisture as well as the lack of application from Ireland’s batting resulted in their downfall.

On Friday morning, when William Porterfield won the toss and decided to bat first, it seemed like an advantage for Ireland. Medium pacer Yamin Ahmadzai bowled the first over of the match and the lack of bounce was quite evident. Due to the overnight drizzle, there was a little bit of dampness around but despite that - considering the prospects of spin later in the game - avoiding batting fourth was what the doctor ordered.

When Ireland reached 37/0 after the first half an hour's play, it seemed like a smooth sailing for them. However, the pendulum swung Afghanistan's way as Ireland lost the plot completely. Some disciplined bowling from Ahmadzai & Co saw Ireland in all sorts of trouble at 85/9.

Having played most of their cricket in Ireland and in the United Kingdom, countering the wet conditions shouldn’t have been a big hassle for the Irish batsmen. But here, they found the going tough. They were indecisive with their footwork and looked tentative at the crease. Perhaps the occasion got the better of the Irish team.

For Afghanistan, Ahmadzai got the ball to swing both ways and was backed up by spin duo of Mohammed Nabi and Rashid Khan.

Meanwhile, in the second session when the conditions dried out, the wicket became slow and low and batting was much easier. And then came the resistance from the lower order. First George Dockrell and then Tim Murtagh, batting at No.11, showed a lot of character.

Dockrell and Murtagh added 87 runs for the last wicket as Ireland managed 172. The duo applied themselves at the crease and showed the rest of their teammates how to play in such conditions.

Murtagh was the aggressor whereas Dockrell was happy to take singles when available. Their experience of batting higher up the order for their respective county teams was evident in their footwork. Also, both used the crease to good effect which helped them tackle Rashid and Nabi.

Ahmadzai broke the partnership with an outswinger, which found the edge of Dockrell's bat and wicketkeeper Ikram Ali did the rest.

"I think it was slightly damp and bit tacky [early]. [That's why] it spun a bit more. Then as it dried out, it became lower and slower," said Murtagh, who top-scored for Ireland with an unbeaten 54.

"We were hoping to get 250 plus at least knowing that it had a lot of cricket during the course of the T20I and ODI series. Having not to bat last is definitely an advantage here, but we have given that back to a little bit,” he added.

At stumps, Afghanistan were 90/2 - still trailing by 82 runs.

Brief scores: Ireland 172 all-out in 60 overs (Tim Murtagh 54, George Dockrell 39; Mohammad Nabi 3/36, Yamin Ahmadzai 3/41) lead Afghanistan 90/2 in 31 overs (Mohammad Shahzad 40, Rahmat Shah 22; James Cameron-Dow 2/35) by 82 runs.