Ireland vs Pakistan: Hosts' valiant performance on debut displays folly of ICC's exclusionary policy in Test cricket

Ireland's performance on it's debut displays the true folly of the ICC's exclusionary policy in Test cricket with the newcomers showing that the game's oldest form could only benefit from fresh blood.

Charles Reynolds, May 15, 2018

Ireland might have been waiting a long time for Test cricket, but based on the evidence of their maiden match in Malahide, Test cricket might well have been waiting even longer for Ireland.

With a performance to silence any who doubted if they deserved their place at cricket's top table, Ireland nearly produced what would have been one of the sport's most unexpected results, coming back from the indignity of the follow on to push Pakistan all the way.

Ireland's Boyd Rankin (L) celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of Pakistan's Asad Shafiq (not pictured) for 62, during play on day two of Ireland's inaugural test match against Pakistan at Malahide cricket club, in Dublin on May 12, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Paul FAITH

Ireland's Boyd Rankin celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of Asad Shafiq. AFP 

Ultimately Ireland lost by five wickets; Pakistan seen home by their own debutant, Imam-ul-Haq, who shook off any accusations of nepotism with an unbeaten 74, marked out for his calmness while others around him could be accused of losing their cool.

The day had not started brilliantly for Ireland who, with centurion Kevin O'Brien still at the crease, would have had high hopes of opening up a more significant lead. But he soon found himself back in the pavilion without adding to the score as Ireland could ultimately only add 20 more runs to their overnight score and were all out for 339.

This, however, was Pakistan, arguably world cricket's most celebrated bottlers of low chases and no strangers to a panicky batting collapse – the target of 160 right in the sweet spot of low enough to appear easy but just high enough to be a challenge.

If there was to be a miracle of Malahide, then Tim Murtagh was surely the key for Ireland and he could scarcely have got the hosts off to a better start, drawing an edge from a skittish Azhar Ali just four balls into Pakistan's innings.

When Haris Sohail and Asad Shafiq both followed inside the first five overs to leave Pakistan 14/3, it looked as if the most extraordinary of results was about to unfold – only three matches in Test history have been won by a side following on and suddenly Ireland looked like they might do it in their first ever game.

Through Imam and Babar Azam though, Pakistan rallied to take lunch at 52/3. Then after the break came possibly the crucial moment in deciding the result, Andrew Balbirnie dropping Babar in the slips. It was a let-off that Pakistan capitalised on and to go with ducks in both innings it completed a miserable game for Balbirnie.

There was still time for a little wobble from Pakistan, after all what more would you expect, but in the end, Ireland just ran out of runs to defend, Imam fittingly the man to hit the winning runs.

Even though Ireland might have waited a long time for their shot at Test cricket, they crammed years worth of action into their first game to recover from 7/4 and the follow on in their first innings to a fairly unbelievable position where they had a chance of winning.

This was a game to display the true folly of the ICC's exclusionary policy in Test cricket with Ireland showing that the game's oldest form could only benefit from fresh blood, that the sport is only dying out while its governing body allows it to.

Welcome to Test cricket Ireland, what a shame it took so long.

Updated Date: May 15, 2018


Pos. Team P W L D Pts.
14 9 5 0 18
14 9 5 0 18
14 8 6 0 16
14 7 7 0 14
14 6 8 0 12
14 6 8 0 12
14 6 8 0 12
14 5 9 0 10

Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 3499 125
2 South Africa 3589 112
3 Australia 3499 106
4 New Zealand 2354 102
5 England 3511 98
6 Sri Lanka 2914 94
Rank Team Points Rating
1 England 5257 125
2 India 5492 122
3 South Africa 3842 113
4 New Zealand 4602 112
5 Australia 3327 104
6 Pakistan 3279 102
Rank Team Points Rating
1 Pakistan 2990 130
2 Australia 1894 126
3 India 3932 123
4 New Zealand 2542 116
5 England 1951 115
6 South Africa 2058 114