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Murtagh the unlikely star as Ireland try to fight back

 

On strike: Ireland No.11 Tim Murtagh during his historic knock against Afghanistan in Dehradun
On strike: Ireland No.11 Tim Murtagh during his historic knock against Afghanistan in Dehradun

By Ian Callender

It could not have started any better for Ireland with William Porterfield winning the toss but three balls after lunch they were 69-8 and their first overseas Test was turning into a nightmare.

The record books were being scoured to find the length of the shortest Test and when Ireland lost their ninth wicket just 16 runs later, they were still big odds against reaching the respectability of three figures, especially as the next man in was Tim Murtagh.

Ireland's opening bowler had faced three balls on this tour before yesterday and was dismissed on both occasions without scoring. But not only did he show the rest of his team-mates how to see off Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and company, he scored his first half century for eight years and was left stranded 54 not out when George Dockrell was caught behind.

Almost two hours after the fall of the eighth wicket, the record books were being thumbed through again and this time they showed Murtagh had made the highest score by an Ireland No.11, the third highest ever in Test cricket when a No.11 had top scored and halfway through their second Test match, the 'Lambeth Lara' had Ireland's highest batting average (64), the best strike rate (75) and the most sixes.

He actually has no challenger for the latter record because he has hit Ireland's only two maximums, both off Nabi, who he hit out of the attack.

Murtagh also had to face 22 balls from Ireland's nemesis Rashid in an innings which has set the standard for all Ireland's future Test No.11s. His partnership with Dockrell, who made 39 in his first Test innings, was 87, the second highest for Ireland's 10th wicket.

It took Ireland past their first Test total against Pakistan at Malahide of 130, when they faced a first innings deficit of 180, and they will be disappointed if Afghanistan get near that today.

The 'home side' finished on 90-2, still 82 behind with Dockrell mysteriously given only the last of the 31 overs which Ireland bowled yesterday evening.

James Cameron-Dow, one of Ireland's five Test debutants, took both wickets although he was twice as expensive as the rest of the attack. Andy McBrine, again, was economical but hardly threatening enough to have been given 13 overs against four right-handers and there was no luck for Murtagh and Stuart Thompson.

Thompson was the surprise selection when Ireland announced their team, coming in for Boyd Rankin who was left out because it was a slow pitch and the Eglinton man is the superior batsman.

Like the rest of the top seven, however, he was caught in the headlights as opening bowler Javed Ahmadzai, Rashid - who bowled James McCollum with his first ball - and Nabi ripped through the Ireland batting, reducing them from 37-0 to 62-7 in the space of 14 overs.

Waqar Salamkheil, one of three Afghanistan Test debutants, bamboozled McBrine and Cameron-Dow but Dockrell hit four of his six boundaries off him in his 100-ball innings, 25 more than Murtagh, who also hit four fours to go with his two sixes.

Murtagh and Dockrell faced only 10 balls fewer than the rest of the team and Ireland will be grateful for a second innings and the chance to put things right.

IRELAND 1ST INNINGS

W Porterfield lbw b Nabi 9

P Stirling c Ali Khil b Ahmadzai 26

A Balbirne b Ahmadzai 4

J McCollum b Rashid 4

K O'Brien lbw b Nabi 12

S Poynter lbw b Rashid 0

S Thompson c Shahhidi b Nabi 3

G Dockrell c Ali Khil b Ahmadzai 39

A McBrine b Salamkheil 3

J Cameron-Dow lbw b Salamkheil 9

T Murtagh not out 54

Extras (4b 5lb) 9

Total (60 overs) 172

Fall: 1-37 2-41 3-41 4-55 5-55 6-59 7-62 8-69 9-85

Bowling: Javed Ahmadzai 12-2-41-3, Wafadar Momand 8-3-31-0, Mohammad Nabi 14-5-36-3, Rashid Khan 12-5-20-2, Waqar Salamkheil 14-4-35-2

AFGHANISTAN 1ST INNINGS

Mohammad Shahzad c and b Cameron-Dow 40

Ihsan Janat lbw b Cameron-Dow 7

Rahmat Shah not out 22

Hashmatullah Shahidi not out 13

Extras (4b 1lb 3nb) 8

Total (2 wkts, 31 overs) 90

Fall: 1-27 2-68

Bowling: T Murtagh 6-3-6-0, A McBrine 13-2-38-0, J Cameron-Dow 6-0-35-2, S Thompson 5-3-3-0, G Dockrell 1-0-3-0.

Today: 4.30-11.30am (GMT)

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