Measure for measure, this has been an absorbing Test so far with both Pakistan and Ireland having produced good, fighting cricket which is what Test cricket is all about - the utmost test of temperament, skills and tactics.
So far, despite the disappointment of the first day washout, cricket has been of high quality. Barring the first innings nerves of the Irish batsmen, who were unable to cope with the movement of the ball or for that matter the turn and spin which was on offer from Pakistan, the Test has seen a tense battle between bat and ball throughout.
At the end of the third day’s play, after the hosts were asked to follow on, any hope of an Irish comeback was unthinkable. But despite Pakistan applying consistent pressure over them, the hosts did show defiance as well as resilience to stage a fight back through their seasoned batsman Kevin O’Brien who notched up a fine fifty, the first in test cricket for his country, to add to his first innings score of 40.
His 55-run stand for the seventh wicket by tea had taken them to a marginal lead that will, of course, make Pakistan bat again.
That certainly has taken the match in an interesting phase unless Pakistan is able to strike back and pick up the rest of the wickets in a short space of time. Even the new ball taken before tea hasn’t had much effect nor Shadab Khan’s ’s bag of tricks.
The most impressive of Pakistan bowlers on the day was the experienced Mohammad Amir who did look like a bowler of old when tragedy struck him with that spot-fixing controversy in 2010.
Since his comeback he hadn’t had much success, may be because of too many dropped chances off his bowling. But he certainly has been a fine bowler and bowled a superb spell against the Irish here on Monday. The swing, the control and the accuracy was all there as Amir, despite a niggling injury, displayed his class by taking three valuable wickets including that of Gary Wilson which was his hundredth Test wicket in his 31st Test.
One hopes a minor limp that he has been showing all day is not something serious or else that will be a huge setback for Pakistan in the forthcoming Tests against England.
Left-handers in a right-handed world are a rarity and a novelty when it comes to being in a sports arena. A southpaw in the ring is as difficult to tackle as a Roger Federer serving to his right-handed opponents, or a left-footed dribbler in a football game.
Amir is one of those gifted left-handers in cricket, like the ones before him such as Gary Sobers or Wasim Akram with the ball who were both top class cricketers and incomparable with the skills they possessed. If not for those lost five years, Amir by now would have been amongst the greats of left-arm fast bowling.
Skipper Sarfraz Ahmed and Pakistan heavily bank on him for this tour to deliver. So far he has done well and with a little bit of more effort and assistance from his bowling partners he may well get his team in the driving seat in the end.
Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2018