Ireland consolidate after umpiring blunder removes Stirling

On a track that demanded patience, Ireland showed the required batting aptitude to erase a large chunk of the deficit at Lunch on Day 3 of the one-off Test against Afghanistan. The pitch has been typically sub-continental – slow, crumbling, but surprisingly still very true.

Resuming this morning with a 120-run deficit, Paul Stirling fell early – LBW, partly to Yamin Admadzai’s in-seamer off the pitch, and partly to umpire S Ravi’s failure to spot a thick inside edge. But that inadvertent moment of success was all that the Afghans could manage all morning. Andy Balbirnie, who looked confident in his brief stay yesterday, showed just why he averages over 55 in first-class cricket, notching up a personal maiden fifty in international cricket, a real fuss-free one.

He found a good ally in James McCollum, who after a nervy start, played a good second fiddle, helping stitch together a 91-run-stand. The fact that 35 runs were scored off six overs at one stage towards the end of the session tells the story of how easy they’ve made it look.

Afghanistan’s spinners didn’t help themselves with their particular desire to bowl quick long hops, allowing both batsmen – who are predominantly back-footed players – to feast on with an overdose of easy cuts behind point. It took 36 overs for Waqar Salamkheil to be brought in, but it was only in the final few overs of the session that he hit his rhythm.

In fact Balbirnie and McCollum have done well to take a leaf out of the Shah-Shahidi stand on how to bat long and tire the inexperience out of the bowling, but with the deficit nearly knocked out, they’ll do better to take a leaf out of the rest of the Afghanistan batting line-up, or in fact even their own first innings, to know how not-to give it all away.

Brief scores: Ireland 172 and 124/2 in 46 overs (Andrew Balbirnie 73*, James McCollum 35*; Yamin Ahmadzai 2-25) trail Afghanistan 314 (Rahmat Shah 98, Hashmatullah Shahidi 61; Stuart Thompson 3-28) by 18 runs