DUBLIN - Ireland became the ninth team out of 11 to lose their first-ever Test match as Pakistan triumphed by five wickets on day five in Dublin on Tuesday.
Left-hand opener Imam-ul-Haq – like all of Ireland’s XI, bar Boyd Rankin, playing his first Test – and Babar Azam guided Pakistan towards an eventually comfortable victory but the tourists’ pursuit of the 160-run target had not been straight-forward.
Ireland had added just 20 to their overnight 319/7, Kevin O’Brien failing to add to the magnificent 118 he compiled on the fourth day, falling to his first ball on the fifth morning, caught at slip off Mohammad Abbas going for a booming drive.
With Pakistan requiring 160 to win, Ireland sensed the possibility of a sensational victory, quickly reducing their opponents to 14/3. Tim Murtagh made the new ball talk to have Azhar Ali caught at slip and then clean bowling Asad Shafiq, while Boyd Rankin had Haris Sohail caught in the gully.
For all that early excitement though, Pakistan gradually took the game away from Ireland, thanks in no small part to 22-year-old Imam, who batted with patience and a sound technique to end on a well-made 74 not out. His 126-run partnership with Babar Azam (59) was the defining one of the day.
Though Babar was run out thanks to a mix-up with Imam, with the score on 142, and skipper Sarfraz Ahmed followed soon after for eight, it was too little too late for Ireland, and Shadab Khan ended on eight not out to help Pakistan over the line.
While it ended in disappointment for the hosts, this had been a performance of some heart and skill. Ireland had appeared dead and buried on Monday morning, in line for a humiliating innings-defeat. The resolve of O’Brien and Thompson in batting them back into the game and their spirited persistence today showed any future opponents that they will be no pushover in Test cricket.
African News Agency (ANA)