With their confidence restored, Ireland hope to make the most of the remainder of their historic maiden Test, even as Pakistan sweat on Mohammad Amir’s fitness.
The third day of Ireland’s maiden Test was a see-saw affair.
The first two sessions at Malahide, Dublin on Sunday 12 May were Pakistan’s. The visitors declared their innings closed at 310/9 before bundling out Ireland for 130 and enforcing a follow-on for the first time since 2002.
However, Ireland showed plenty of grit in the final session, with Ed Joyce (39*) and William Porterfield (23*) steadying the ship. By the time stumps were drawn, Ireland were 64/0, a deficit of 116.
Gary Wilson, who scored an unbeaten 74-ball 33 in the first innings to help prop up the total, expected a tough fourth morning, but believed the Irish batsmen could make something of it.
“I think we can take good confidence from that. We’re (less than) 120 behind, we know we’re going to have to bat really well but I think the two lads showed at the end there that it’s definitely possible,” he said.
“It looked like Pakistan maybe had the ball reversing slightly towards the end. If they’re trying to get the ball reversing, they obviously think there’s enough in the wicket for the batters. That is definitely a plus point for us.”
The first hour of the fourth morning will be crucial for the home side’s hopes. The ball is expected to move a fair bit, and Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Abbas will once again hope to cause havoc. Ireland will need their openers to see out the first session.
“We know the first hour, the first session tomorrow is going to be really key to try and set the game up for us,” said Wilson. “We’re confident. Whenever you’re asked to follow on and you can go 60 for none at the close, that shows big guts. We can take good confidence from that.”
Joyce, who had reached a 90-ball 39 when the stumps were drawn, said the wicket had become slower. “It was a tough wicket, but it has flattened out a little bit,” he said. “It's got slower after flattening out. It's a relief that we got through to this position ... myself and William (Porterfield) played well. The first session tomorrow is going to be really important.
“It is a lot of relief. It is a one-off Test and it is our first one. It is definitely some nerves.”
Ireland’s task could be made easier by the fact that Amir’s chronic knee injury has resurfaced. The paceman was forced off the field late on the third day, after having to abandon bowling an over two balls in.
However, Azhar Mahmood, the Pakistan bowling coach, was hopeful he could take further part in the match. “He has got a chronic knee problem which has slightly flared up,” said Mahmood. “Hopefully, he will be okay tomorrow to bowl for us. He's having treatment and hopefully tonight we will do a bit more treatment, tomorrow morning, ice as well, so he will be fine.”
The injury has refocussed the need for Pakistan to manage Amir’s workload – since his return, he has played all three formats, and Mahmood admitted it was something the management needed to consider.
“He came back after five years and since he came back he played every format for us,” said Mahmood. “We have to manage his workload as well, so maybe that's a sign for us to, in the future, see where he stands.
“We've got a bunch of young guys coming up and we want to have Test bowlers separately to the one-day and T20s, so we are working on that and hopefully we can come up with something.
“We want him to play Test cricket because he is our No.1 bowler and we want him to run in and bowl for us. Workload ... I have seen a lot of fast bowlers and their body can't take it, so they just manage to play one format or two formats.
“It's a concern for us, but hopefully, we will manage his workload in the future.”
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