When Afghanistan and Ireland take the field in Dehradun on Friday, it will be the first time that they meet each other in Test cricket. But it’s far from the first occasion that the two sides will clash in whites.
Prior to being elevated to Full Member status in 2017, the teams met on four occasions in the Intercontinental Cup, the preeminent first-class competition for Associates. Here is a look back at how each of those matches unfolded and the way they contributed to their budding rivalry.
2010: Afghanistan won by seven wickets
In just their third-ever first-class match, Afghanistan showed they were a team on the rise by knocking off the three-time defending Intercontinental Cup champions in a high-scoring encounter in Dambulla, Sri Lanka.
After four first-innings half-centuries by Ireland, led by captain William Porterfield’s 78 at the top of the order when choosing to bat, Afghanistan responded with five fifties of their own to take a 69-run first-innings lead. Mohammad Shahzad top-scored with 88 in Afghanistan’s 474 during their first dig.
The match appeared headed for a draw with Ireland 39 without loss heading into the start of the final day but Dawlat Ahmadzai, now Afghanistan’s selection chairman, wiped out Ireland by tea on day four with 5 for 52 and was ably assisted by Mohammad Nabi’s 4 for 33 to set up a target of 133 in 36 overs in the final session. Shahzad completed his excellent match with an unbeaten 42 in the chase as Afghanistan sealed the win with just over four overs remaining.
2012: Match drawn
A rain-affected affair at Rathmines in Dublin never had a chance of producing a result after the first two days were lost. Ireland nearly stole the match after sending Afghanistan in under damp conditions and knocking them over for just 84 in 29.1 overs as Max Sorensen and Alex Cusack split four wickets apiece.
Ireland were missing several of their regulars due to County commitments, but still pushed hard for a win under stand-in captain Kevin O’Brien, scoring at more than four an over before declaring at 251 for 4 just before lunch on the last day. After a 106-run opening stand between Karim Sadiq and Javed Ahmadi chewed up the majority of the post-lunch session, Stuart Thompson’s three wickets sparked a sharp collapse in which Afghanistan lost five wickets for 51 in the space of 15 overs.
However, Asghar Afghan held firm at one end with an unbeaten 51 to ensure Ireland were denied the opportunity to steal a full 20 points.
2013: Ireland won by 122 runs
The final of the 2011-2013 Intercontinental Cup campaign was billed ahead of time as Trent Johnston’s swansong. The man who had led Ireland to their seminal success in the 2007 World Cup announced beforehand that he was signing off at the conclusion of the match.
Some were pining for Johnston to hang around after he smashed 62 off 32 balls and took 3 for 34 in a Man-of-the-Match performance in Ireland’s thumping win over Afghanistan in the final of the T20 World Cup Qualifier in Abu Dhabi a few weeks earlier. But it was John Mooney who wound up stealing the show at the ICC Academy in Dubai.
Sent in to bat, Ireland were all out by tea on day one for 187 after failing to recover sufficiently from Dawlat Zadran’s piercing new-ball spell as the fast bowler claimed 4 for 44 in 16 overs. But Ireland snuck a first-innings lead as Mooney claimed career-best figures of 5 for 45 after coming on at second-change to hold Afghanistan to 182.
Ed Joyce and Niall O’Brien each scored fifties and added 110 for the third wicket in Ireland’s second dig, setting up a target of 347. Despite Rahmad Shah’s 87, Mooney bettered his first-innings haul to take 5 for 36. He wiped out the tail with four wickets in the space of 19 balls to end the match with a day and a half to spare. Mooney’s twin five-fors were his only ones in 17 I-Cup matches for Ireland.
2017: Afghanistan won by an innings and 172 runs
This one-sided affair in Greater Noida marked a changing of the guard between the two sides a few months before their joint admission to Full Member status. The winner would have an inside track toward winning the I-Cup, which at the time held the dangling carrot of the Test Challenge, a proposed four-match series with the lowest-ranked Full Member.
Asghar and Afsar Zazai both ground out centuries over the course of the first day and a half as Afghanistan easily amassed 537 for 8 declared on what appeared to be a dead pitch. But after a 117-run second-wicket stand between Joyce and Andy Balbirnie in Ireland’s reply, Rashid Khan stirred the pitch to life in the final session of day two with a devastating array of googlies, taking five wickets to reduce Ireland to 170 for 7 by the close of play.
John Anderson’s stubborn 61 not out meant Ireland delayed the lunch break from being taken on time on day three. But with 40 minutes for his bowlers to put their feet up instead of the usual ten to allow them to recover from 91 overs in the field, captain Afghan decided to enforce the follow-on with a 276-run first-innings lead.
The match never made it to the final day as Ireland crumbled for 104 in 40 overs. Nabi opened the bowling and claimed 6 for 40 in an unbroken 20-over spell, moving past Hamid Hassan to become Afghanistan’s all-time leading wicket-taker in the Intercontinental Cup. Afghanistan overtook Ireland in the points standings on the I-Cup table as well and didn’t look back, clinching their second title by the end of the year ahead of their ascension to Test status.