Afghanistan and Ireland have shared a prolific rivalry in the recent years, but there's a fresh wave of excitement as the teams get ready to meet each other in Tests for the first time.
'Afghanistan vs Ireland' has become an increasingly common fixture in the recent past. Just since the start of 2018, they've played each other in 15 limited-overs matches and the rivalry is set to turn a new chapter when they meet for their first Test against each other in Dehradun, starting Friday, 15 March.
The fact that both Ireland and Afghanistan have only played one Test each to date adds to the occasion. Ireland gave Pakistan a bit of a scare in their maiden men's Test in Malahide in March of 2018. Afghanistan, however, perished to a big innings defeat against India inside two days in Bengaluru.
There's a good chance one of the two youngest Test sides will get their maiden win this coming week. Will it be Afghanistan or Ireland? #AFGvIRE TEST PREVIEW— ICC (@ICC) March 14, 2019
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Playing in familiar conditions, Afghanistan will want to prove their mettle against Ireland, who are more accustomed to playing on seaming wickets. All things considered, the match is a momentous event in itself and one can expect the two teams to put on a competitive show. The players themselves can't wait to get out on the field.
"As an experience, it’s going to be hard to beat the feeling around Ireland’s first Test last year, but it’s always very special to play a Test match for your country and it will always have a buzz about it," said Boyd Rankin in lead up to the Test.
Paul Stirling echoed those sentiments, while also emphasising on the rivalry between the teams: "I think there will always be something special about every Test match we play in. The rivalry between these two teams is what sets this one apart from others, both sides will go in believing they can come out on top."
For a lot of players donning the Test hat is the realisation of a long-standing dream. Kevin O'Brien, who made Ireland's maiden Test a rather memorable affair by scoring 118 to set Pakistan a somewhat tricky 160 to chase, can't wait to get out on the field once more.
"Our first Test match at Malahide was a very special moment. And this Test will be also very special. Test cricket is something I grew up with, watching it on TV when I was younger. I think every Test match for an Irish cricketer will give you a buzz and something which shouldn’t be taken for granted."
"Representing Ireland in any format is a dream come true so to be able to be one of the first to do it in Test cricket is obviously an even better feeling," Andy Balbirnie chimed in.