Ireland consolidate lead in Intercontinental Cup
Nick Royle (Setanta)
Ireland lead the Intercontinental Cup table by 21 points after getting the better of a rain-affected draw with Afghanistan. Ireland claimed 13 points from the game, to extend their lead over Scotland in second place in the table. Current I-Cup holders Afghanistan took seven points from the match and remain in third, two points behind the Scots.
In a 19-day tour, the rain meant Afghanistan played only two and a half days of cricket, and they leave the country on Friday morning with few fond memories from a depressing and dispiriting visit. Yet they should be proud of their efforts in saving the game at Rathmines.
Karim Sadiq's team managed to bat for 67 overs after captain Kevin O'Brien had declared Ireland's innings half an hour before lunch.
After the early loss of Alex Cusack for 38, Gary Wilson (73) and Andrew White (62 not out) put on 119 quick runs for the fourth wicket to help Ireland extended their first innings lead to 167.
Ireland's bowlers had torn through the Afghans in the first innings, dismissing them for 84 in 29.1 overs, but openers Sadiq and Javed Ahmadi showed a lot more resolve in the second.
The pair put on 106 for the first wicket before Sadiq was first man out, caught by John Mooney at deep midwicket off the bowling of Albert van der Merwe for 46. It was fine sprawling catch by the North County all-rounder, who dislocated his thumb catching the ball and left the field immediately to go to hospital for a scan. He is expected to be fit for the first of the three Twenty20 internationals against Bangladesh on Wednesday in Belfast.
Ahmadi (59) and Afsar Zazai (4) were dismissed by the impressive debutant Stuart Thompson soon after to open up an opportunity for Ireland with the Afghans on 120-3.
Afghanistan lost wickets at regular intervals, but Ashgar Stanikzai (51 not out from 84 balls) defied cramp to keep the tail together and bring his side to 208-7 before the captains agreed a draw just after 6pm. Opener Ahmadi was dropped by Andrew Balbirnie off the bowling of Trent Johnston in the seventh over, and captain Kevin O'Brien felt that Ireland could have gone on to win the game if they had made that early breakthrough.
"That would have set us on our way, but that is cricket," he said. "People drop catches, people misfield but they don't do it on purpose. Going forward we have to try and take those half chances."