Andrew Balbirnie’s maiden Test half-century led Ireland’s spirited recovery on Day 3 of their one-off Test against Afghanistan at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Dehradun. On St. Patrick’s Day, Balbirnie and debutant James McCollum blunted the new-ball and forged an unbeaten 91-run partnership to take Ireland to 124 for 2 at lunch, the deficit reducing to just 18 runs.
The morning session belonged to Ireland. Resuming at 22 for 1 and behind by 120, Ireland were dealt an early jolt, in the form of Paul Stirling’s wicket, given out LBW to Yamin Ahmadzai despite a thick inside edge onto pad. But from there onward, Balbirnie and McCollum took over and brought Ireland back into the match. The fact that 102 runs were scored in 34 overs speaks volumes of how positively both batsmen batted.
Balbirnie reaching his first Test fifty with a cut shot for a boundary behind square. He was the aggressor of the two in the partnership striking eight fours in the first session and putting away the freebies Afghanistan had to offer, which were quite a few. Balbirnie was severe on chinaman bowler Waqar Salamkheil, who bowled way too short to him. McCollum however, at time seemed stuck and overwhelmed by Rashid’s variations but successfully held his ground despite a few nervous moments outside off.
McCollum took four balls to get off the mark with a crisply-timed flick towards midwicket but had to wait for another 10 overs before getting his second, running Rashid past slip. The introduction of Mohammad Nabi made life easier for McCullum, taking the offspinner for back-to-back boundaries as runs started to flow. A couple of loud caught behind appeals, and a light edge that fell just short of first slip did not break McCollum’s concentration even as he went another 10 overs without a boundary.
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.