Ireland five wickets away from completing a unique feat

Fri, Dec 13, 2013 8:40 AM

Ireland was on the verge of regaining the ICC Intercontinental Cup when it needed just five more wickets with two days to spare to complete a comfortable victory over Afghanistan.

When stumps were drawn for the third day on Thursday, of the five-day final, at the ICC Academy Oval No.1, defending champion Afghanistan, chasing 347 runs for victory, was 136 for five.

Rahmat Shah (33) and captain Mohammad Nabi (25) will resume Afghanistan’s second innings on Friday with the defending champion requiring another 211 runs to retain the title. The two batsmen have so far added 51 runs for the unfinished sixth wicket after half the Afghanistan side was back in the hut at the score of 85.

Left-arm spinner George Dockrell caused most of the damage and picked up three wickets conceding 26 runs, while Trent Johnston and John Mooney bagged a wicket apiece.

Earlier, Ireland had resumed its second innings at 159 for two and the entire side was bowled out for 341, half-an-hour before tea to set Afghanistan a 347 runs victory target.

Niall O’Brien finished as the top scorer with 87 while Ed Joyce added four more runs to his overnight score of 74 to become Dawlat Zadran’s second and final victim. Kevin O’Brien (47), Andrew White (39) and Trent Johnston (31) made useful contributions in the lower-order to leave Ireland in a position from where it could dictate terms.

If Ireland regain the ICC Intercontinental Cup, then it will not only be the fourth time that it will win this prestigious tournament but will also become the first ICC Member to win three ICC tournaments of three different formats in a calendar year.

In July, Ireland had won the 50-over Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Championship, while last month it retained the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier. Interestingly, Afghanistan had finished second to Ireland in both these tournaments.

When play started on Thursday, Ireland was aiming for a big score to put Afghanistan under pressure. And this is exactly what its middle-order batsmen did even though Joyce fell in the first over of the day.

After O’Brien had put on 110 runs for the third wicket with Joyce, he put on 81 runs for the fourth wicket with White who struck four runs in a 76-ball 39. White fell to Rahmat and this led to three more wickets when John Anderson, Niall and John Mooney also departed in a space of 30 runs as Ireland slipped from 244 for three to 274 for seven..

Anderson fell to Rahamat for two, while Niall’s well-constructed innings came to an end when he was caught by Shabir Noori off Mirwais Ashraf. The left-hander scored 87 off 198 balls with the help of nine fours. It was Niall’s 30th career half-century.

Mooney became Mirwais’ second scalp after contributing just three.

But at that stage, Kevin O’Brien and Trent Johnston got together and put on 42 crucial runs for the eighth wicket to put Ireland back in the box seat. Both the batsmen eventually fell to Nabi who finished as pick of Afghanistan bowlers with four for 39.

Kevin O’Brien slapped nine fours in a 43-ball 47 while Johnston’s 40-ball 31 included five fours.

Chasing a 347-run target, Afghanistan was looking for a strong start which didn’t come when Johnston bounced back to trap Shabir Noori in front of the wicket in the opening over after being hit for a couple of fours. Nawroz Mangal (23) and Mohammad Shahzad (39) repaired the damage by taking the score to 65 before the innings fell apart.

After Nawroz’s departure, Dockrell added the wickets of Shahzad, Asghar Stanikzai (2) and Afsar Zazai (0) in 13 balls as Afghanistan looked down and out at 85 for five. However, Nabi and Rahmat joined hands and made sure Afghanistan saw off the day without any further damage.

When play will resume on Friday, Afghanistan will require 211 runs to win while Ireland will want five wickets to complete a rare treble.

Scores in brief:

Ireland 187 all out, 61 overs (John Anderson 55; John Mooney 33; Dawlat Zadran 4-44, Rahmat Shah 3-36, Samiullah Shenwari 2-26) and 341 all out, 95.1 overs (Niall O’Brien 87, Ed Joyce 78, Kevin O’Brien 47, Andrew White 39, William Porterfield 34, Trent Johnston 31; Mohammad Nabi 4-39, Rahmat Shah 2-58, Mirwais Ashraf 2-63, Dawlat Zadran 2-101)

Afghanistan 182 all out, 77.5 overs (Mohammad Nabi 42, Asghar Stanikzai 41, Shabir Noori 29, Rahmat Shah 20; John Mooney 5-45, George Dockrell 3-52, Trent Johnston 2-50) and 136 for five, 43 overs (Mohammad Shahzad 39, Rahmat Shah 33 not out, Mohamamd Nabi 25 not out, Nawroz Mangal 23, George Dockrell 3-26)

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