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Rahmat, Afghan Ensure Afghanistan Remain on Top Against Ireland

After Rahmat's 98, Shahidi struck a patient 61 while captain Afghan slammed 67 as the hosts finished their first innings on a strong 314 taking a hefty 142-run lead.

Cricketnext Staff |March 16, 2019, 5:40 PM IST
Rahmat, Afghan Ensure Afghanistan Remain on Top Against Ireland

Rahmat Shah heartbreakingly missed out on becoming his country's first-ever centurion in the longest format of the game but his 98 backed up by half-centuries from Hashmatullah Shahidi and Asghar Afghan helped Afghanistan take cruise control of the only Test against Ireland in Dehradun.

Shahidi struck a patient 61 while captain Afghan slammed 67 as the hosts finished their first innings on a strong 314 taking a hefty 142-run lead. Medium pacer Ahmadzai then struck with just his second ball to remove Ireland captain William Porterfield for a duck to further boost Afghanistan's chances.

At the end of play on day two, Ireland had moved to 22/1 still trailing the hosts by 120 runs. Paul Stirling was unbeaten on 8 and had Andrew Balbirnie for company on 14*.

Resuming on 90/2 the first hour of the day's play saw some really slow progress with the Ireland bowlers sticking to a plan. Just 20 runs were scored in the first 16 overs of the day but Shah and Shahidi ensured they did not lose focus.

The hour after drinks had the two Afghanistan batsmen up the ante slightly. The boundaries started to flow and the next 14 overs the duo scored 47 runs. Shah also reached a maiden half-century which took him 121 balls as the hosts went into lunch 157/2 having reduced the deficit to just 15 runs. William Porterfield did his best to eke out a wicket including employing unorthodox fields and rotating his bowlers regularly but the two Afghanistan batsmen remained unmoved.

The hosts secured the lead soon after the break with Shahidi also reaching his maiden Test match half-century off 139 balls. Shahidi and Shah kept the scoreboard ticking collecting 1's and 2's and scoring the odd boundary with relative ease and looked set to take Afghanistan to a massive lead. But completely against the run of play Shahidi looking to sweep Andy McBrine out of the rough, missed and was trapped plumb in front of the wicket for 61, his innings including six fours.

Shah though remained unfazed and marched on in a bid to reach a maiden century but disaster struck with the right-hander falling just two short of the landmark. Having played so patiently until then, Shah looked to guide Tim Murtagh down to third man. His feet, however, went nowhere and all he could manage was drag-edging the ball back onto his stumps leaving the dressing room and the handful of supporters in the stadium shellshocked.

Ireland then made a mini-comeback into the game with the wicket of Mohammad Nabi the very next over. The experienced No. 6 batsman could not control an attempted flick and was dismissed by Stuart Thompson for nought. Asghar Afghan and Ikram Ali Khil took the hosts through to tea without any more casualties but having picked three key wickets in the middle session certainly gave Ireland hope despite the hosts' lead soaring to 70.

The visitors continued to strike post the break. Ali Khil was dismissed for a rather painful 40-ball 7 with McBrine breaching his defences. Rashid Khan slammed George Dockrell for a four and a six but the left-arm spinner had the last laugh when he had the batsman pinned plumb in front for his maiden Test wicket.

One Rashid departed, captain Afghan decided to take the aggressive route. He slammed McBrine for two sixes in an over to reach his maiden test fifty off 78 deliveries before smashing Murtagh for back-to-back fours. His sprightly knock was ended by Thompson on 67, which included four fours and four sixes, post which Afghanistan folded quite quickly in 106.3 overs.

Thompson was easily the pick of the Irish bowlers returning 3/28 in 17.3 overs while McBrine, James Cameron-Dow and Dockrell all chipped in with two wickets each.

Ireland were then rocked early in their second innings when Ahmadzai removed Porterfield for a duck. The medium pacer got the ball to move away ever so slightly from a good length to catch the Irish captain's outside edge through to the 'keeper.

Ireland have a mountain to climb on the third day and how they go about it will rely a lot on the current stand between Balbirnie and Stirling.

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