Dublin – Ireland captain William Porterfield was in no doubt
his side deserved their elevation to Test cricket after a thrilling debut ended
in a five-wicket loss to Pakistan.
Hopes of a miracle at Malahide weren’t just the stuff of
fantasy when Pakistan, set a modest 160 to win on Tuesday’s final day,
collapsed to 14 for three before lunch at the Dublin ground.
Imam-ul-Haq (74 not out) and Babar Azam (59) then combined
to dash dreams that Ireland, the 11th nation to play men’s Test cricket, would
record a remarkable win.
But it was a testament to Ireland’s skill and resolve that
after they had been made to follow-on by visiting captain Sarfraz Ahmed, the
game remained in the balance on the final day.
For a while, it seemed Ireland might rewrite the record
books on two fronts in becoming only the fourth side to win a Test after
following-on and just the second in the 141-year history of the format,
following Australia’s defeat of England in the inaugural 1877 Test at
Melbourne, to win their debut match.
That they were in a position to do that owed much to Kevin
O’Brien’s impressive 118 – just the fourth instance of a man scoring a century
in his country’s first Test match – that was the cornerstone of Ireland’s
second innings 339.
Ireland made their reputation on the global stage with World
Cup wins over Pakistan, England and West Indies, Porterfield was proud of his
side’s entry into the Test arena.
“The biggest thing was how we fought back in the second
innings with the bat – that showed the character we have,” he said.
“It’s something that’s been talked about during big
occasions, World Cups. That’s always been known to be there but Test cricket is
Test cricket for a reason, it’s there in the name, you did get tested and we
were after the first innings.
“To get up to close to 350 showed what we’ve got in the
changing room and the passion that we have for playing our cricket.”
The crowd briefly included 74-year-old Rolling Stones front
man and cricket fan, Mick Jagger, but Porterfield hoped that the next
generation of potential Irish cricketers would be more inspired by O’Brien’s
“Hopefully in the next week or two there’s going to be
hundreds of little kids aspiring to be Kevin O’Brien in backstreet
cricket,” the Irish captain said.
“This Test match will have gone a long way to providing
the next generation of cricketers, I’m sure.”
This was O’Brien’s first international century since he
scored the fastest-ever World Cup hundred, off just 50 balls, in Ireland’s
stunning win over England at Bangalore seven years ago.
Yet the controversial decision to shrink the 2019 World Cup
in England to a 10-team tournament and Ireland’s failure to come through an
increasingly competitive qualifying tournament where only two spots were
available means Porterfield’s men will be on the outside looking in next year.
“We wouldn’t have got to where we were if we didn’t get
those opportunities to put down a marker on the world stage,” Porterfield
“That gives you an opportunity to create enough noise. To
miss out by it just being a 10-team World Cup is bitterly disappointing.
“We wouldn’t have had the opportunity to play a Test
match today, I don’t think if we hadn’t been playing the last 10, 12 years at