DUBLIN: Pakistan debutant Imam-ul-Haq saw his side to victory as Ireland’s first match in men’s Test cricket ended in a gallant last-day defeat by five wickets at the Malahide Cricket Club Ground on Tuesday.
Pakistan, set a seemingly modest 160 to win, after earlier making Ireland follow-on, collapsed to 14 for three before lunch on the fifth day.
Imam showed his maturity and class to guide the tourists away from potential embarrassment, scoring the winning runs to finish on 74 not out as Pakistan reached their target just before tea. It justified his call-up by Pakistan’s chief selector, his uncle and former Test captain Inzamam-ul-Haq.
Imam shared a vital 126-run stand with Babar Azam (59) for the fourth wicket.
Imam hit the winning runs as grey clouds threatening rain hung over Malahide.
Victory was a good way for Pakistan to prepare for the first of a two-Test series against England at Lord’s starting on May 24.
“We needed this kind of performance before playing England,” Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed said at the post-match presentation. “Hats off to Imam and Babar. They showed real character in conditions tough for batting. We are proud of the way these two dug Pakistan out of trouble in the run chase.”
Just four balls into their chase, Pakistan saw Azhar Ali edge Tim Murtagh to Paul Stirling at first slip.
Haris Sohail (seven) fell next, well taken in the gully by Ed Joyce off towering fast bowler Boyd Rankin as Ireland’s two former England internationals combined.
And 13 for two became 14 for three in 4.3 overs when Middlesex paceman Murtagh produced a superb delivery to bowl Asad Shafiq between bat and pad for one.
Imam, who bats in spectacles, showed a maturity beyond many of his more experienced top-order colleagues.
He struck two fine fours off Stuart Thompson, a square cut followed by a square drive.
Ireland needed to take every chance that came their way but, with Babar yet to add to his interval score, he was dropped in the slips by Andrew Balbirnie.
Imam, having cover driven a four off Rankin, completed a 61-ball fifty with seven boundaries — the third time he had reached the landmark this tour after half-centuries in warm-up matches against Kent and Northamptonshire.
Babar cashed in to make a 61-ball fifty.
But with Pakistan 20 runs shy of victory, a mix-up saw Babar run out.
There was still time for Ireland to take another wicket — that of Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed to a dubious lbw decision by England umpire Richard Illingworth — but by then the match had escaped their grasp.
Earlier, Ireland were dismissed for 339 in their second innings.
Kevin O’Brien, who on Monday became the first Ireland batsman to score a Test hundred, fell to his first ball on Tuesday as Mohammad Abbas had him caught by Haris at slip for 118.
The Irish, resuming on 319 for seven, saw Abbas then take three wickets for 12 runs in 22 balls, the paceman finishing with a haul of five for 66 in 28.3 overs, giving the 27-year-old seamer match bag of 9-110.
“If we’d had a slightly better morning session, we could have pushed Pakistan even harder,” said man-of-the-match O’Brien. “So it’s disappointing from a team point of view not to get an extra 40 or 50 runs.”
Only three sides in the 141-year history of Test cricket had won after being made to follow on and only one men’s team — Australia in the inaugural Test against England at Melbourne in 1877 — had enjoyed a victory in their debut match at this level.
Ireland were facing an innings defeat when O’Brien came in at 95 for four but, ably assisted by Stuart Thompson, who made 53, he turned the tide during a seventh-wicket partnership of 114.
But after Tyrone Kane had seen out Tuesday’s opening over from Mohammad Amir, who took his 100th Test wicket on Monday, Abbas struck.
O’Brien going down on one knee to attempt a slashing drive off a wide half-volley from Abbas, nicked to Haris.
A crestfallen O’Brien bowed his head in frustration and dropped his bat as he trudged off the field.
But the 34-year-old had every reason to be proud of an innings that spanned five hours, 44 minutes and saw him face 217 balls with 12 fours.
PAKISTAN (1st Innings) 310-9 declared (Faheem Ashraf 83, Asad Shafiq 62, Shadab Khan 55; T.J. Murtagh 4-45, S.R. Thompson 3-62).
IRELAND (1st Innings) 130 (K.J. O’Brien 40; Mohammad Abbas 4-44, Shadab Khan 3-31).
IRELAND (2nd Innings, overnight 319-7):
E.C. Joyce run out 43
W.T.S. Porterfield c Sarfraz b Amir 32
A. Balbirnie lbw b Abbas 0
N.J. O’Brien b Amir 18
P.R. Stirling lbw b Abbas 11
K.J. O’Brien c Haris b Abbas 118
G.C. Wilson c Haris b Amir 12
S.R. Thompson b Shadab 53
T.E. Kane b Abbas 14
W.B. Rankin b Abbas 6
T.J. Murtagh not out 5
EXTRAS (B-1, LB-20, W-4, NB-2 )27
TOTAL (all out, 129.3 overs) 339
FALL OF WKTS: 1-69, 2-69, 3-94, 4-95, 5-127, 6-157, 7-271, 8-321, 9-332.
BOWLING: Mohammad Amir 29.2-9-63-3; Mohammad Abbas 28.3-10-66-5 (1nb); Rahat Ali 23-3-75-0 (2w); Faheem Ashraf 18-3-51-0 (1nb, 1w); Shadab Khan 30.4-7-63-1.
PAKISTAN (2nd Innings):
Azhar Ali c Stirling b Murtagh 2
Imam-ul-Haq not out 74
Haris Sohail c Joyce b Rankin 7
Asad Shafiq b Murtagh 1
Babar Azam run out 59
Sarfraz Ahmed lbw b Thompson 8
Shadab Khan not out 4
EXTRAS (NB-5) 5
TOTAL (for five wkts, 45 overs) 160
FALL OF WKTS: 1-2, 2-13, 3-14, 4-140, 5-152.
BOWLING: Murtagh 16-3-55-2; Rankin 12-1-57-1 ((3nb); Thompson 11-4-31-1 (2nb); Kane 6-1-17-0.
RESULT: Pakistan won by five wickets.
UMPIRES: N.J. Llong (England) and R.K. Illingworth (England).
TV UMPIRE: M. Hawthorne (Ireland).
MATCH REFEREE: B.C. Broad (England).
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Kevin O’Brien.
Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2018