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[fve] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=klETBn9E9UA [/fve]

Never ignore an Irish team on a Saint Patricks Day…

The onus of Day 3 perhaps goes to Afghanistan but the Irish boys have shown some terrific fighting spirits to keep themselves alive in the contest.

And not just on this day, this has been the story of the Dehradun Test match so far.

On Day 1, after being reduced to 85 for 9 while batting first after winning that crucial toss, they came back in the match with that final wicket partnership between Geroge Dockrell and Tim Murtagh. Then on the next day, their bowlers fought back after Rahmat Shah’s 98 to restrict Afghanistan’s first innings lead to 144. When Rahmat and skipper Asghar Stanikzai were in batting together, it seemed they would bat Ireland out of the Test match.

But their bowlers, despite their limited abilities, never let that happen. On a slow-low wicket, they bowled as tightly as possible (Rahmat said on Day 2 Murtagh was bowling so straight that at the time he felt like batting against a bowling machine) to force the mistakes from the opposition batters.

And during their second Innings, Irish batting stood up, much as they did against Pakistan in that inaugural Test at Malahide.

Also read: Rahmat Shah’s old-school batsmanship propels Afghanistan

Right at the start of the innings, they lost skipper William Porterfield. At that point, the chatter in the press box was whether Ireland can avoid innings defeat.

However, they went into the Stumps (on Day 2) at 22 for 1.

The first session on Day 3 was crucial. The ball was relatively hard and there was some early morning moisture at the wicket. Hence, Ireland were looking for some solidarity from their overnight pair Paul Stirling and Andrew Balbrinie. The duo started cautiously but soon an umpiring blunder saw Stirling being wrongly judged leg before wicket. The batsman had a clear inside edge but S. Ravi missed that completely as he did on a couple on occasions in the white-ball leg of this tour as well.

Nevertheless, at 33 for 2, James McCollum joined Balbrinie and they not only just steadied the ship by the end of the session both were dominating proceedings. During that period the Afghan bowling looked quite ordinary – spinners bowling short on a slow pitch, allowing both batters to go onto the back-foot and cut them with ease. And the duo capitalised those run-scoring opportunities.

Ireland went into Lunch at 121 for 2, trailing by just 23 runs.

However, right from the start of the second session, things changed drastically as the visitors lost four wickets in quick successions. Rashid Khan found his mojo along with left-arm wrist-spinner Waqar Salamkheil.

From 121 for 2, Ireland were 150 for 5 within the next half an hour’s play.

At that juncture, it seemed the game would be wrapped up within the next hour and so. But again the pendulum swung.

Ireland’s only Test centurion Kevin O’Brian along the lower-order put up a strong resistance and took the lead close to 100. It was O’Brian who led the charge and George Dockrell provided him company just like he did in the first innings to Murtagh. And for the last-wicket, James Cameron-Dow along with crisis man Murtagh, frustrated the Afghan bowlers yet again. They added crucial 58 runs, which provided them something to bowl at.

While defending 147, Ireland have got rid of dangerous Mohammad Shahzad already. With the hosts still requiring 118 more, the Irish bowlers can still make a match out of it on that wearing surface on Monday. A couple of early wickets and who knows, floodgates may open.

At least, as long as they show their fighting spirits, the glimmer of hope will be there.

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