Imam and Babar hold nerves to deny Ireland
Despite giving a great account of themselves, Ireland’s maiden Test ended in defeat as Pakistan clinched a five-wicket victory on the final day at Malahide in Dublin.
Resuming day five on their overnight score of 319-7, Ireland added 20 more runs to their total in the second-innings before being bowled out. Ireland’s first-ever Test centurion Kevin O’Brien was dismissed off the very first ball he faced on Tuesday for 118.
Set a target of 160 to win in the final innings, Pakistan overcame early jitters to claim a comfortable victory in the end.
Irish bowlers’ roaring start
Given Pakistan’s propensity to collapse on the final day of a Test, the Irish had their tails up as they set the visitors a tricky target of 160. Soon, the home fans at Malahide were celebrating as Ireland’s pacers tore through Pakistan’s top-order.
Medium-pacer Tim Murtagh gave the hosts the perfect start in the second innings as he had Azhar Ali edging to Paul Stirling at first-slip in the very first over of Pakistan’s chase. Three overs later, when Haris Sohail was caught by Ed Joyce at gully off the bowling of Boyd Rankin, the Irish camp was buzzing. Six deliveries later, Murtagh castled Asad Shaif with an inswinger to reduce Pakistan to 14-3.
Azam cashes in
Things could have gone awry for Azam shortly after lunch though as Murtagh found the outside edge off his bat. Unfortunately for Ireland, Andy Balbirnie failed to grab on to a relatively simple catch at third-slip. That proved to be the game ultimately as Azam went on to notch up only his fifth Test halfcentury in 24 innings while forming a match-winning partnership with Imam-ul-Haq (74). The 23-yearold was the fourth Pakistan wicket to fall in the end after a big-mix up with Imam resulted in a run-out. By then, Azam had scored 59 and ended any hopes of a Ireland victory.
Imam’s introduction to the Pakistan team in the ODI format resulted in a fine century against Sri Lanka last year. Having been handed his Test debut at Dublin, the lefthanded opener’s first innings had been eventful but short-lived.
He made up for it with a composed unbeaten half-century in the second innings to steer Pakistan to victory. Imam lived dangerously at the start as some edges flew through the vacant gully region but he did not lose his composure.
His mix-up with Azam which resulted in a run-out had shades of his uncle’s infamous running between the wickets but nevertheless, the opener’s solid showing is a very promising sign for Pakistan cricket.
Fine start: Imam-ul-Haq (r) scored a fifty on in his Test debut.