ESPNcricinfo – Rahmat Shah missed out on a taste of history in the first innings but was monumental in the second, making 76 as Afghanistan registered their first Test win, 277 days after making their debut in the format. It was their first match since that debut, but they made the runs – the first chase of over 125 in India since 2012-13 – expertly on the fourth morning. Ireland, also in their second Test, put down Ihsanullah in the third over of the day and didn’t come much closer than that to showing any fight. Rahmat’s second fifty of the game came in a century stand with opener Ihsanullah, who made an unbeaten 65 as Afghanistan sealed the win by seven wickets.
Ireland were frugal at the start, as they had been on Sunday evening, but without being too menacing. The slow rate was down more to the batsmen’s watchfulness than the surface, which was conspicuously serene for a fourth-day subcontinent pitch. Ireland’s method, once more, was to go with Tim Murtagh and George Dockrell to bowl straight lines on a low pitch, but the lack of any sideways movement was in Afghanistan’s favour.
Yet, there was a nervous fiddle from Ihsanullah at the start of play that might have made the chase tricky. Reaching out hesitantly at a looping ball outside off, he hit a feeble chip at Stuart Thompson at short extra cover, but the seamer misjudged the trajectory altogether. An easy take at chest height was made more complicated than it needed to be as he skipped off the turf and ended up grabbing at it; his wide-eyed disbelief suggested he didn’t pick that in the background.
There were no nerves from Rahmat. Where both openers had been ultra defensive on Sunday, Rahmat had given himself permission to look for runs. That was the theme he stuck to on the morning, even though the top priority was staying as low as possible to protect his stumps. Occasionally, he stretched his arms out to drive on the up, and this paid off against both Murtagh and Stuart Thompson, the only ones with any pace to allow such decadence. It resulted in boundaries behind square, but one gorgeous drive through extra cover in particular stood out. It came in the 28th over, when Afghanistan were still 52 for 1, crawling along: an imperious thump on the rise against Thompson that signalled the start of Afghanistan’s attack.
And that attack was more Afghanistan than anyone’s seen so far in Tests. Sweeps, pulls and on-the-rise slogs over mid-on began falling out of the cupboard as the batsmen made a visible effort to get the runs before the end of the session. Even Ihsanullah, who looked anxious against spin when short leg skipped across to silly point, began shedding his watchfulness. He took Dockrell over his head – a common occurence throughout this Test – and became particularly expansive against the offspin of Andy McBrine, who was subjected to several runs down the pitch followed by purposeful heaving. Two of those were boundaries at long-on, one a six over the bowler’s head, and by then, even Ireland seemed to have understood an early finish was coming.
By the end of the session, even Afghanistan were in a hurry. Rahmat ran past a James Cameron-Dow delivery, trying to finish with a six, and Nabi was run out next ball trying to return for a tricky second. But when Hashmatullah Shahidi pulled the next ball for four, the mission was accomplished: a win in the last over before the scheduled lunch break.
Scores: Afghanistan 314 (Rahmat 98, Asghar 67) and 149 for 3 (Rahmat 76, Ihsanullah 65*) beat Ireland 172 (Murtagh 54, Ahmadzai 3-41, Nabi 3-36) and 288 (Balbirnie 82, O’Brien 56, Rashid 5-82, Ahmadzai 3-52) by seven wickets.
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