Ireland become history makers against Afghanistan

Ireland recorded their first Test victory against Afghanistan (Getty Images)
Ireland recorded their first Test victory against Afghanistan (Getty Images)

Ireland have won their first ever Test match, by six wickets against Afghanistan in the United Arab Emirates.

Captain Andy Balbirnie steered his side to the historic event with an unbeaten 58, as Ireland celebrated their maiden victory in the sport’s longest format.

In a one-off Test match between the two nations at the Tolerance Oval, Ireland were set a chase of 111 runs to win.

Albeit a low total, Ireland struggled to get going initially, and both Peter Moor and Curtis Campher were out for ducks, leaving the side floundering at eight for two.

But captain Balbirnie was resolute at the crease, taking his time to reach his half century, but he stood strong against the Afghanistan bowlers and saw his side home with an unbeaten 58 from 96 deliveries.

Ireland’s task was made harder when Harry Tector was caught behind off Nijat Masood for just two runs, as the side slipped to 13 for three. The experienced Paul Stirling only made 14 from 22 deliveries before he was caught by Rahmat Shah off the bowling of Zia-ur-Rehman.

But after the early collapse which saw Ireland slump to 39 for four, Balbirnie and Lorcan Tucker proved the resistance.

They defended well and then opened up as the total was reduced to under 30, with Tucker finishing the Test unbeaten on 27.

It was a historic moment for the nation, which only gained full ICC member status, and the right to play Test matches in 2017.

“To win our first Test match - we’re absolutely ecstatic,” said Balbirnie, reported by BBC Sport.

“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. But 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.”

The nation had only played seven Tests and had lost every single one before the victory against Afghanistan.

Their first Test was against Pakistan in Ireland back in 2018, but their number of games has increased in recent years.

There were three in 2023, a two-Test series in Sri Lanka, and a one-off match against England at Lord’s.

For Ireland, it is a historic occasion, and it comes off the back of a period where their players were no longer allowed to count as domestic players in the County Championship, but the recent ICC funding has been injected into a high quality domestic structure, and the national team are seeing the rewards.