Ed Joyce has waited longer than most for his shot at playing in a Test match, playing at a top level for over 20 years, even switching his allegiances to England for a time. As a reward he was wrongly given out LBW after just four balls — Test cricket is no respecter of romance.
If the last session on Saturday hinted at it, then Ireland’s second day of Test cricket confirmed it, the honeymoon is well and truly over.
After a chastening day in Malahide, Ireland will be under no illusion at just how tricky Test match cricket really is.
With Pakistan resuming on 268/6, the hosts might have harboured hopes of bowling the visitors out for under 300 with a few quick scalps, as it was they were denied even the satisfaction of bowling them all out, Sarfraz Ahmed declaring on 310/9 half an hour before the lunch break.
It was to prove the trickiest of the cliched ‘tricky little sessions’, Pakistan’s opening bowlers making Ireland’s batsmen feel about as welcome in Test cricket as the ICC have over the past few decades.
When the lunch break came, Ireland had faced 6.1 overs and were 5/3, Mohammad Abbas trapping both Joyce and Andrew Balbirnie lbw and Mohammad Amir removing William Porterfield’s off stump with an absolute ripper that was simply too good for Ireland’s skipper.
For a while it looked as if things could get humiliating for Ireland — they were in danger of being bowled out for the lowest total by a side making their Test debut — but eventually the 84 made by South Africa in 1889 was passed, thanks largely to some lusty blows from first Paul Stirling and then Kevin O’Brien.
There could however be no denying the gulf in class between these two sides, and the way Abbas ripped through the top order, ably supported by Amir and Faheem Ashraf will not have gone unnoticed by England’s batsmen who must face them next.
Elsewhere, Shadab Khan has been enjoying his time on tour so far. Were it not for an injury to Yasir Shah, he might not have even found himself amongst the tourists, but after an impressive showing against Northamptonshire in Pakistan’s last warm-up match, and an innings rescuing partnership with Faheem and score of 55 with the bat, he chipped in with the ball here as well, proving tricky for the lower order to handle and finishing with figures of 3/31.
In the end Ireland were bowled out for 130, at least beating the maiden first-innings scores of New Zealand and South Africa in Tests, but still allowing Pakistan to enforce the follow on for the first time in 16 years.
Given the way things had gone for them earlier in the day, the tourists would no doubt have had high hopes of making some serious inroads into Ireland’s batting lineup before the close of play, and in reality they mainly had themselves to blame for not doing so.
Two dropped catches early on, both off the bowling of Amir – who has now had 16 dropped catches off his bowling, including one by himself, since his return to the game in 2016 – would, had they been taken, have made things almost certainly irretrievable for Ireland. As it was both openers survived to allow the hosts at least a shot of forming a rearguard.
The day finished with Ireland 64/0 with Joyce unbeaten on 39. Perhaps there is a place for romance in Test cricket after all.
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