When Afghanistan’s debut Test against India in Bangalore ended in two days and the team suffered an innings and 262-run loss, it seemed their entry into cricket’s elite format was too soon. On the other hand, Ireland battled heroically against Pakistan in Malahide but they lost by five wickets. While Ireland’s Test debut was hailed, Afghanistan’s was panned. However, in the one-off Test against Ireland at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Dehradun on Monday, Afghanistan registered history and won the one-off match against Ireland by seven wickets to get off the mark in the format. Afghanistan joined England and Pakistan as the other teams to register a win in only their second attempt. Australia are the only country to win a Test on their first attempt.
It was a topsy-turvy Test match at Dehradun, which has been Afghanistan’s home for this series. After sweeping the Twenty20 Internationals 3-0, the five-match ODI series was shared 2-2 after one match was washed out. In the Test match, Ireland chose to bat but they were immediately in trouble when they were dismissed for 172. George Dockrell scored 39 and had it not been for a partnership of 87 runs for the final wicket, Ireland would not have reached the total after being reduced to 85/9. Tim Murtagh, at No.11, top scored with 54 while Yamin Ahmadzai and Mohammad Nabi picked up three wickets each. Rashid Khan and Waqar Salamkheil picked up two wickets each.
In response, Afghanistan were boosted by Rahmat Shah’s brilliant knock and he was well assisted by 61 and 67 from Hasmatullah Shahidi and Asghar Afghan. Rahmat had the chance to become Afghanistan’s first centurion but on 98, he was trapped LBW by Murtagh. Stuart Thompson picked up 3/28 as Afghanistan were bowled out for 314, a lead of 142. Ireland started more positively in the second innings with Kevin O’Brien and Andrew Balbirnie hitting fifties.
Balbirnie’s 82 and O’Brien’s 56 helped Ireland fightback but Rashid Khan, bowling through the pain of his injured finger, became the first Afghanistan bowler to take five wickets in a Test and his 5/82 reduced Ireland to 288 all out, giving Afghanistan a target of 147 . Mohammad Shahzad was out for 2 but a brilliant stand between Ihsanullah Janat and Rahmat Shah again put Afghanistan on course.
Janat scored 65 while Rahmat scored 76 in addition to his knock in the first innings an despite losing a couple of wickets towards the end, Shahidi sealed history when he smashed a boundary to spark wild celebrations among the Afghanistan fans in Dehradun.
The performance of both Afghanistan and Ireland in this Test match has shown that Test cricket is well and truly alive and it is THE format for cricketing enthusiasts.