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Afghanistan became just the fourth team to taste Test success in two games or lesser!

Test hangs in balance despite Rashid five-for

Afg v Ire, Only Test, day 3, report

Ireland put up a resilient batting display on day three of the one-off Test against Afghanistan to take a 146-run lead.

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Andy McBrine dismissed Mohammad Shahzad for 1 early in the chase, and at stumps Afghanistan are 29/1 with a deficit of 118, with Ihsanullah Janat (16*) and Rahmat Shah (11*) at the crease. 

Ireland were in a spot of bother in the final session of the second day, when they lost their skipper – William Porterfield – in the very first over of the innings. However, Andrew Balbirnie and Paul Stirling played out the rest of the session, refusing Afghanistan another breakthrough before the closure of play. The duo kept at it on the third morning, as Balbirnie smashed Yamin Ahmadzai for a boundary off the fourth delivery of the day.

Ahmadzai soon got his revenge, though, as he trapped Stirling in front with an in-swinger. The opener fell for 14, but was unfortunate to lose his wicket, since the replays of his dismissal showed a thick inside edge. Ireland did not lose guile despite the wicket, as Balbirnie and James McCollum batted through the rest of the session to keep Afghanistan at bay. 

The duo remained watchful and sometimes looked ugly with the bat, but their approach bore fruit as the deficit was reduced from 120 to 18. What followed next was a 30-minute frenzy,as  the Irish middle-order collapsed within 10 overs of the second session. 

Rashid became the first player from Afghanistan to claim a five-wicket haul with the red ball
Rashid became the first player from Afghanistan to claim a five-wicket haul with the red ball

Ireland lost their momentum, and Afghanistan got a foothold in the game. The first to depart was Balbirnie, who was caught behind off Waqar Salamkheil for a splendid 82, as the 104-run stand partnership came to an end. McCollum followed in the very next over after scoring a patient 39, Rashid's first scalp of the innings.   

Stuart Poynter, the next batsman in, could add just one run off nine deliveries before he edging Salamkheil to Ihsanullah, who claimed a stunning grab at first slip. Ireland's search for a substantial partnership continued, as Stuart Thompson was sent packing by Rashid in the very next over. The visitors went from cruising at 137/2 to gasping at 157/6, in a matter of minutes.

The responsibility of steadying the innings fell on the experienced shoulders of Kevin O'Brien and George Dockrell, and the veteran duo did not disappoint. O'Brien, who became the first Test centurion for Ireland after his emphatic innings against Pakistan last year, stood up once again and notched his second 50-plus score.

After his historic century against England, Kevin O'brien stepped up once again with a crucial fifty against Afghanistan
After his historic century against England, Kevin O'brien stepped up once again with a crucial fifty against Afghanistan

It was a superlative effort from the pair, as they added 63 runs to take Ireland out of the trench with their gritty display. They dug deep and showed faith in their defensive abilities to take Ireland to 220/6 at tea, as the lead swelled to 78.

The visitors once again lost their way at the beginning of a new session, as Rashid snared Dockrell's scalp off the third delivery after tea. The leg-spinner was on song in the final session, claiming three wickets in three overs. He removed O'Brien with a leg-break that skid onto the pads, and the umpire had no choice but to raise his finger.

Rashid became the first player from Afghanistan to bag a five-wicket haul with a trademark googly, as Ikram Ali Khil stumped Andy McBrine with some quick work behind the wicket.

After reducing Ireland to 230/9, Afghanistan would've fancied their chances of chasing a two-figure target. However, Ireland extended their narrative from the first innings – the tenth wicket partnership amounted for 89 – as James Cameron-Dow and Tim Murtagh added 58 runs for the final wicket. The lead was extended to 146, as the duo gave themselves something to bowl for in the fourth session of play. 

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