Afghanistan scripted history on Monday by defeating Ireland in Dehradun in the only Test match that they played. Both the teams were included among the Test-playing nations in June 2017 becoming the 11th and 12th Test playing nations. It was also the second Test match for both the countries, Afghanistan having lost their first Test match to India nine months ago and Ireland losing to Pakistan later.
Afghanistan, who has chosen India as their base for international matches away from their war-torn country, had Ireland on the ropes from the beginning. Afghanistan dismissed Ireland for 172 on the first day of the Test with their pacers Yamin Ahmadzai and Mohammad Nabi taking three wickets each. Rashid Khan also bowled well conceding just 20 runs from 12 overs while nabbing two wickets. The Irish inning was marked by a fighting 87 run partnership for the last wicket between George Dockrell and Tim Murtagh. The latter scored 54 runs and remained not out at the end of the Irish inning.
Afghanistan, in reply to the first inning, scored 314 runs securing a crucial lead of 142 runs. There were handsome contributions of 40 runs from Mohammad Shahzad, 98 from Rahmat Shah, 61 runs from Hashmatullah Sahidi and 67 runs from Asghar Afghan. Afghanistan in the bargain gained a crucial lead of 142 runs. The wicket was slow and the ball was keeping low, there was no appreciable swing to the ball nor was there any movement off the pitch. That suited the Afghani batsmen well. They compiled their innings patiently.
Just as Ireland was getting close to surpass the deficit, they lost four wickets in quick succession to Waqar Salamkheil and Rashid Khan. But Ireland did fight back with a 63 run partnership between Kevin O'Brien and George Dockrell. But Rashid Khan dismissed both the batsmen off successive deliveries and then got the wicket of Andrew McBrine in the next over to leave Ireland at 230 runs for the loss of 9 wickets.
Tim Murtagh and James Cameron-Dow added another 58 runs for the last wicket to leave Afghanistan with a target of 147 runs to win the match. Tim Murtagh, having scored 54 not out in the first inning and being dismissed for 27 runs in the second, became the only number 11 batsmen to have scored more than 25 runs in both the innings in the same Test match Test history. Rashid Khan had captured five Irish wickets for 82 runs taking his match tally to 7 wickets for 102 runs. Waqar Salamkheil had figures of 2 wickets for 66 runs in the second inning.
The Afghanistan batsmen began their chase cautiously having lost Mohammad Shehzad for just two runs on the evening of the third day. Needing another 118 runs to win when play resumed on the morning of the fourth day, the Afghani batsmen were still careful and shied away from any adventurism. Rahmat Shah, who had missed the first Test century to be scored by an Afghanistan player by just two runs in the first inning, put together his second fifty of the Test match.
Toward the end of the first session of play, the Afghanistan batsmen showed some urgency to get to their target. In doing so, Rahmat Shah got out trying to hoick the ball out of the ground in a bid to finish the match in style. Mohammed Nabi was out on the next ball when he tried to take two runs off a ball played to fine leg. He was run out at the striker's end. Hashmatullah Shahidi ended it all in Afghanistan’s favour when he pulled a ball over square leg for four runs. Afghanistan had won the match with seven wickets to spare.
This is a historic win for the Afghanistan cricketers as well as their countrymen. Though Afghans were initiated to cricket mostly in the refugee camps in Pakistan, they have taken to cricket like a fish takes to water. They now boast of a bowler who is ranked second best in the world in the ICC cricket rankings. They have also shown that they have the acumen to play the longer version of the game and not just limited overs cricket. Asghar Afghan, the Afghanistan captain feels that they have the bowling strength to take on any batting line up in the world. He says that they are concentrating on their batting and believes that if they put enough runs on the board they can overcome any other country.