O'Brien, Dockrell consolidate after spin wrecks havoc

Those 40 minutes have often done strange things, and they haven’t disappointed this time around either, successfully infusing life and vigour into the lost-looking Afghanistan bowling. The last few overs before the break were an indication of how even the set Irish batsmen were at sea if the spinners hit their right lengths, and Waqar Salamkheil and Rashid Khan continued right where they left. And reaped rewards.

Salamkheil triggered it, getting one to spin in big and draw the edge on Balbirnie, who was looking to leave it with his deliberate defence inside the line, and Rashid followed up with a ball that stayed low to trap McCollum LBW, as Ireland squandered their advantage in the first session with both set batsmen departing at the cusp of wiping off the deficit.

Stuart Poynter (1) and Stuart Thompson (1) didn’t last long either, with the four wickets falling for just 20 runs in 7.1 overs. It then fell onto the experienced shoulders of Kevin O’Brien to get them out of this rut, and he did it how he usually does, with a counter-attack. Notching up his second 50-plus score in his second match off just 71 balls, he’s sucked Ireland out of sheer doldrums, along with George Dockrell, who was the perfect opposite foil, shutting shop.

So, this match continues to remain a pendulum, switching sides just when you think the door has closed on them, and it’s been validated twice in this very session. And now, it’s right at the knife’s edge, waiting to swing, and deceive, again.

Brief scores: Ireland 172 all-out in 60 overs and 220-6 in 78 overs (Andrew Balbirnie 73, Kevin O’Brien 51; Yamin Ahmadzai 2-37, Waqar Salamkheil 2-42) lead Afghanistan 314 all-out in 106.3 overs (Rahmat Shah 98, Hashmatullah Shahidi 61; Stuart Thompson 3-28) by 78 runs