Rahmat Shah reaps fruits of patience in defining innings
Shah was dismissed for 98 on the second day of the one-off Test on Saturday, 16 March, but his innings set Afghanistan up for a healthy first-innings total of 314, and a lead of 142. Ireland are now behind by 120 runs and have already lost one second-innings wicket, leaving Afghanistan the firm favourites to pick up their maiden Test win.
Shah buckled down and faced over 214 balls for his 98, but collected the bulk of his runs from boundaries – 60 out of his 98 – and spent 69 overs at the crease.
At stumps on day 2, @Irelandcricket trail by 120 runs scoring 22/1 in their 2nd innings. Earlier, Afghanistan scored 314 in 1st innings on day 2 of the only Islamic Bank of Afghanistan Test match in Dehradun & took a lead of 142.#AFGvIRE pic.twitter.com/OvGjEbqnAw— Afghanistan Cricket Board (@ACBofficials) March 16, 2019
Shah spoke especially highly of Tim Murtagh, Ireland’s new-ball bowler, who didn’t give an inch all day, conceding just 33 runs in his 22 overs. Murtagh was also responsible for Shah eventually enduring heartbreak, when on 98, Shah tried to run down a length ball at an angle and chopped on after being stifled for room.
That lack of room was symbolic of the immaculate lines that Murtagh had bowled all day. "It had been like facing a machine," Shah said of Murtagh.
"Their fields told me they wanted to bowl dots. That was the game – that I would get tired of it and play a poor shot. But I showed patience and stayed at the wicket, and got this score."
Murtagh found ample support from his bowling comrades, especially the right-arm pacer Stuart Thompson who, like Murtagh, was miserly, giving away just 28 runs in 17.3 overs. Thompson also struck thrice – first accounting for Mohammad Nabi in the middle of an Afghanistan collapse, as they went from 226/3 to 314 all out, and then Asghar Afghan, the captain, and Wafadar Momad in successive overs to wrap up the Afghanistan innings.
"It was good early on, when I got into a bit of rhythm and had a good long spell,” Thompson said. “It was hard work out there, as the wicket didn't offer us very much, but we knew if we kept going with tight lines and good lengths, we’d get our rewards eventually."
"[Today] was all about keeping their runs down. We didn't score enough in the first innings, to be honest, and we were about keeping their run rate down and then going bang, bang with the wickets."
With a substantial deficit to make up for, Ireland began their pursuit poorly, losing their captain William Porterfield to the second ball of the innings, and are now in a scrap to save the Test.
Paul Stirling and Andrew Balbirnie kept the Afghanistan bowlers at bay thereafter, batting out 11.4 overs for their unbroken second-wicket partnership, and Thompson expressed confidence that Ireland would put on a better second-innings show.
"There's still three days to play in this Test, and a lot of time to bat," said Thompson. "If we can put on some big partnerships - the two lads tonight looked set - so if they can kick on and we bat for a long time then we can go past them and get a big lead."