Afghanistan remain dominant as Rahmat Shah falls short of historic century
They then consolidated that by removing William Porterfield for a duck in the very first over of Ireland's second innings.
Afghanistan began the day at 90/2, and Shah and Shahidi (61) were in control from the get-go. It was Shah who started with added confidence, recording his first boundary of the day in the sixth over. He kept the Irishmen on their toes, as he guided the ball past the ropes 15 times in his superlative innings.
He muscled a four off James Cameron-Dow to record the first half-century by an Afghanistan cricketer in Test cricket.
Shahidi, on the other hand, kept him good company but took his time to settle into the game – he scored just eight runs off the first 40 deliveries he faced on the second morning. The right-hander remained watchful through the first session, building a steady but solid foundation with Shah for the second wicket.
The effort bore fruit after lunch, when the Ireland bowlers looked visibly out of steam. Both the batsmen opened up more and the scoring rate went up as they grew in confidence. The Irish total of 172 was overhauled in the 65th over, as the partnership between Shah and Shahidi scaled the three-figure mark.
Afghanistan are bowled out for 314 in their first innings!— ICC (@ICC) March 16, 2019
Rahmat Shah came within two runs of becoming the first Afghanistan batsman to score a Test century. #AFGvIRE | LIVE ⬇️ https://t.co/mV1o12EBt1 pic.twitter.com/5Hyfvkr9bJ
Shahidi's half-century came after a tussle of 140 deliveries, but he kept at it with patience and an understanding of the pitch. However, just as the boundaries began to flow, Andy McBrine came to Ireland's rescue – as he so often does – and trapped Shahidi in front of the wicket with a straight, loopy delivery.
The visitors broke the deadlock, and Afghanistan had to start all over again as their skipper, Asghar Afghan, made his way to the middle. He put up a typically reliable display and slowed things down to take Ireland's newform momentum away.
Cameron-Dow, who had claimed a brace the previous day, looked out of sorts on Saturday. The left-arm spinner struggled to control the pace on his deliveries and ended up bowling a tad too short. He undertook a more cautious approach halfway through the game, and adopted a leg-side line in the second session. However, things went from bad to worse for the visitors, as he was then reprimanded by the umpire for negative bowling.
Afghanistan score 314 in the first innings against @Irelandcricket in the only Islamic Bank of Afghanistan Test match and taking a lead of 142. The top scorers for Afghanistan were Rahmat Shah (98), Asghar Afghan (67), Hashmatullah Shahidi (61) and Mohammad Shahzad (40).#AFGvIRE pic.twitter.com/jzEf7zCDn4— Afghanistan Cricket Board (@ACBofficials) March 16, 2019
Afghan and Shah were partly successful in their attempt at mitigation and added 28 before the latter fell to a heartbreaking dismissal, as Tim Murtagh made most of the second new ball. Mohammad Nabi was dismissed for a duck in the very next over and Ireland found a foothold in the Test.
While Debutant Ikram Ali Khil looked tentative initially, he managed to hang around to take Afghanistan to tea without further blips. He played out 40 deliveries to score 7 runs, but was the first scalp of the final session, as McBrine disturbed the woodwork to claim his second wicket. Rashid Khan and Yamin Ahmadzai, the next batsmen in, did not offer much, adding 18 runs between them before returning to the pavilion.
Asghar, however, remained resolute as ever at the other end. A heady mix of powerful hitting with smart tactics saw him notch up his first half-century in Test cricket, as he added 67 off just 92 deliveries before falling to Stuart Thompson.