Ireland’s first ever test match: how did they fare?
Last week, the Irish cricket team played their first ever test match against the visiting Pakistan in Dublin. The game had been scheduled for many months, and Irish cricket fans had been waiting with bated breath to see if their side could cut it at the highest level. So did they?
As expected, the Irish lost, but they did so while providing Pakistan with a major scare. Never did it appear that Pakistan were likely to drop the game, but after they just limped home in the final innings to win by five wickets, they certainly could have.
The first two innings, it could be said, went pretty much as expected for most people tuning in around the world. After sending their opponents in to bat, Ireland did a relatively good job with the ball to contain Pakistan to just 310/9d. Tim Murtagh was particularly impressive, picking up 4/45 from his 25 overs.
The problems started once Ireland commenced their batting innings though, and in a little over three hours they were rolled for 130, conceding a 180 run first innings lead. All appeared to be going as expected, but Ireland bounced back in a big way.
After being forced to follow on, they managed 339 in their second innings, led ably by a sensational 118 by Kevin O’Brien (see below for more on this). O’Brien entered the fray with his side reeling at 4/95, and left it with them in a far better position at 8/321. This total left Pakistan with a total of 160 to chase; gettable, but a little awkward.
At no point were Ireland favourites to knock Pakistan over in their chase, but when they fell to 3/14, or when Babar Azam was run out to make it 4/140 and Sarfraz Ahmed fell just 12 runs later, there would have been a few nerves in the Pakistan dressing rooms. Fortunately for them, they were able to sneak home, but all who watched must have been impressed with the effort put in by the Irish.
O’Brien’s record breaking century
When O’Brien notched up a three figure total in Ireland’s second Test innings in history, he joined a couple of very exclusive clubs. Obviously, he became the first centurion for the Irish national side at the test level, but on a more global scale, he became just the fifth batsmen in Test cricket history to score a century in his country’s first test match.
The first player to do this was Charles Bannerman, who, back in the the first Test match in history in 1877 managed 169 for his Australian side. There was over a 100 year gap to the next one, which took place when Zimbabwean Dave Houghton scored 162 in 1992. Bangladesh’s inaugural Test in 2000 saw two centurions, with Animul Islam (151) and Habibul Bashar (101) joining the exclusive club. Now, 18 years later, it’s O’Brien’s turn to add to the list.
Where to now?
After the high of their first ever Test match against a world-class opposition, Ireland will have a little respite; though not for long. Their next International fixture is against the Netherlands, who they will face in back-to-back T20’s on June 12 and 13 in Holland. A couple of days later, they have another two T20’s in two days, this time against Scotland.
Following that, they will test their ability to compete against the best once again, when they host India. This time, it will be in the shortest form of the game, with two T20I’s scheduled against the Indians on June 27 and June 29.
Ireland have a lot more International experience against the best teams in the world in this format, having played in the ICC World Twenty20 in 2009 and 2012/13, and in the World T20 in 2015/16. Unsurprisingly, their record against these teams doesn’t make for great reading, but they have managed victories against both Bangladesh and the West Indies in the past.
Their solitary T20I against India came way back in 2009, and the Indians won it pretty easily by eight wickets with 15 balls remaining. Ireland batted first in that fixture, and struggled their way to 8/112 off the rain reduced total of 18 overs before India chased the total down pretty easily.
Since then, however, Irish cricket has come a long way. They have become a potentially dangerous ODI team, enjoying victories over the likes of England and the West Indies at the 2011 World Cup, and their upgrade in status to Full Test Playing Nation which occurred last year was just rewards for years of hard work and improvement.
India will certainly head into the two game T20 series against Ireland as strong favourites, and it’s unlikely the Irish will be able to take a game away from India. They will, however, most likely put in a far stronger performance than they did in the corresponding fixture 9 years ago. It may not be enough to earn them a victory, but if they can make India sweat just a little bit, it will earn them a whole lot of respect.