Imam and Babar hold nerves to deny Ire­land

Sport360 - - Ireland V Pakistan - By Staff Re­porter @Sport360 ed­i­to­rial@sport360.com

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 shines

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.

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