Ireland fall short of improbable victory on Test debut

CHARLES MCQUILLAN GETTY IMAGES 
 
   Kevin O'Brien raises his bat as Ireland's inaugural test century-maker

CHARLES MCQUILLAN GETTY IMAGES Kevin O'Brien raises his bat as Ireland's inaugural test century-maker

For all that early excitement though, Pakistan gradually took the game away from Ireland, thanks in no small part to 22-year-old Imam, who batted with patience and a sound technique to end on a well-made 74 not out.

They went on to establish a narrow lead going into the final day of the five, which is now underway.

Niall O'Brien, after enduring a 10-ball duck in the first innings, was much more positive this time, which was fortunate because the scoreboard would have stopped otherwise as William Porterfield faced 25 balls without scoring.

The day had not started brilliantly for Ireland who, with centurion Kevin O'Brien still at the crease, would have had high hopes of opening up a more significant lead.

The now 26-year-old Amir's cricket career nearly came to an end following his involvement in a spot-fixing scandal during a 2010 Test against England at Lord's.

(Mid-Day) You often hear cricket officials say; "We believe in the primacy of Test cricket".

After Ireland's roaring start with the ball on the final day, Azam got together with Imam-ul-Haq to take the visitors to 52-3 at lunch. Imam has already dealt with the pressure of expectation - his uncle, Inzamam-ul-Haq, is one of Pakistan's greatest batsmen, as well as the chief selector - and he played an innings of calm authority to record his maiden half-century, characterised by composure and sound shot selection. Murtagh was the key man for Ireland bowling exceptionally, and it was apparent that he was key to any chance of an Irish victory. Both players added 114 runs for the seventh wicket. Losing is part of sport but Ireland gave everything and their performance was admirable, especially considering it was their first ever test cricket match.

None of that happened, and Ireland lost by five wickets.

With the threat of rain to come later in the day, Pakistan sensed the need to accelerate against attacking Irish fields and Imam soon moved to his maiden 50 before Azam progressed to his fifth. They produced great determination and tenacity to grind out a fantastic display of cricket and an overall fabulous test match, with the added experience and learning curve going to stand to Ireland in future Test matches.

Ireland arrived at the ground in the morning knowing that plenty needed to go their way if the "Miracle of Malahide" was to be fully realised.

Kevin O'Brien, who on Monday became the first Ireland batsman to score a Test hundred, fell to his first ball on Tuesday.

Instinct said that Pakistan might contrive to make life hard for themselves yet.

100-ball competition plans because young people "not attracted to cricket" (BBC Sport) Young people are "just not attracted to cricket", which is why a new 100-ball competition is being proposed, according to England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Colin Graves.

Tim Murtagh had Azhar Ali caught at first slip for two before Boyd Rankin struck, Haris Sohail (7) falling to an excellent Ed Joyce catch in the gully. Now the rest of the world, surely, believes them too.

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