This may have been an inaugural Test for Ireland but it certainly was a game to remember for them and also for Pakistan owing to the quality of cricket which it produced in the four days — from the first ball bowled to the last — when Pakistan eventually won by five wickets on Tuesday despite early hiccups in their run chase.
Veteran Kevin Obrien’s maiden Test century (118) for his country on the fourth day and the fight back it produced made this an exciting and an absorbing Test as Pakistan were left to chase a tricky 160-run target to win. Three early wickets sent shock waves in the Pakistan dressing room on the final morning and Ireland sensed that they could pull off a magnificent inaugural Test win.
However, Ireland’s chance to create history was denied by youngsters Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam who showed tremendous maturity to frustrate the Irish bowlers in a brilliant 126-run stand for the fourth wicket to rally their team home.
The young Pakistan team, though put to a stern Test by the Irish particularly in the last two days, showed grit and muscle and asserted their authority as an experienced Test playing nation to eventually win the test by five wickets.
Test cricket is the real test for the cricketing nations, be it against the minnows playing their debut match or against a team with all the experience in the world. Both the Irish and the Pakistanis enhanced their credentials with this Test, proving to be good sport throughout and producing the kind of performance that is good publicity for Test cricket.
The final days play depended much on the predicted weather and Pakistan bowlers ability to wrap up the Irish innings as quickly as possible to finally go for the jugular.Earlier today, when the play started, Mohammad Abbas bowled beautifully and was the most impressive of Pakistan bowlers. He is improving with every international game and could be a handful for England in the upcoming Test series.
Imam in his maiden Test batted superbly, was mostly unruffled and tackled the tense morning session with lot of maturity to virtually book his place for the two Tests against England.
Babar, an established one-day player, too showed glimpses of his talent at his new batting position to put his critics at ease and giving them hope that with patience and experience he can develop into a fine Test player.
Pakistan’s victory against a new Test nation in conditions largely alien to them as opposed to favourable UAE setting, would certainly have a tonic like effect when they would face England in a couple of weeks at Lord’s and then at Headingley in the two-Test series.
Good things have come out of this solitary Test, no doubt. Young guns such as Fahim Ashraf, Shadab Khan, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam and Mohammad Abbas have shown that they have the ability to stand up for their team when in crisis and ensure a better future for Pakistan cricket in the years to come.
Well done Pakistan.
Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2018