Ireland seal first ever Test triumph after defeating Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi

Captain Andrew Balbirnie's unbeaten half-century guides team to historic win at the Tolerance Oval

Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie and Lorcan Tucker celebrate after sealing victory against Afghanistan at Tolerance Oval in Abu Dhabi on March 1, 2024. Abu Dhabi Cricket & Sports Hub
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Captain Andrew Balbirnie guided Ireland to their first ever Test-match victory when they defeated Afghanistan by six wickets in Abu Dhabi on Friday.

Set a victory target of just 111, after Afghanistan were bowled out for 218 in their second innings, the Irish made a disastrous start to the chase when they fell to 13-3 at the Tolerance Oval.

Naveed Zadran bowled both Peter Moor and Curtis Campher for ducks in successive balls in the second over, while Harry Tector feathered one from Nijat Masood to the keeper as he was out for nine.

Afghanistan's hopes of pulling off a highly unlikely victory were given a further boost when Paul Stirling was out for 19, after steadying the ship in a 36-run partnership with Balbirnie, to spinner Zia ur Rehman leaving Ireland wobbling again on 39-4.

But that was to be as close as Afghanistan were going to get to a win as unbeaten pair Balbirnie (58) and Lorcan Tucker (27) guided their team to a first red-ball victory in eight attempts.

“To win our first Test match – we are absolutely ecstatic,” said Balbirnie, whose knock came off 96 balls and contained five fours.

“We started the Test match really well having lost the toss and the bowling was really disciplined – we showed again in the second innings the way we bowled our lengths when it got a bit flatter for the batters against our seamers.

“To take 20 wickets in any Test match is a big achievement and it's only the second time we've done it so it's pretty special.

“With a score like 13-3 you're one partnership away. When Lorcan came in, the more time we spent out there the easier it got although there's obviously a bit of nerves when you're chasing a first Test win. Bit I knew if I stayed in there for long I could see us home.

“It's right up there [in the history of Irish cricket] – for me I've played a lot of cricket for Ireland but certainly that's as big a moment for me.

“A lot of players before us didn't get a chance to play Test cricket so fortunately we're part of that history now. We got to play and got to win.”

It was a chastening match for the Afghans who were grateful to captain Hashmatullah Shahidi (55) and Rahmanullah Gurbaz (46) for helping them pass the 200 mark in their second innings, after being bowled out for 155 in the first.

Mark Adair followed up his 5-39 on Day 1 with 3-56 in the second innings, which also saw Barry McCarthy and Craig Young claim three scalps each as Afghanistan folded miserably after starting out on 134-3.

“We let ourselves down,” said Shahidi. “Ireland’s seamers were very good but our batters didn’t handle the pressure. We threw away our wickets.

“The condition for batting wasn’t so good. The ball was seaming from day one and their bowling was also very disciplined. We can still take some positives from this defeat.

"Gurbaz was very positive on debut. Naveed had had a good Test against Sri Lanka, and in this match also he did very well.

“My congratulations to Ireland’s first Test win. For us, we must learn from this loss. We have to work harder and move forward in Test cricket.”

Updated: March 01, 2024, 3:37 PM