One-off Test: Afghanistan and Ireland chase historic Dehradun win

The graph of two vastly different cricketing nations takes a step upwards from Friday in the somewhat surreal surroundings of Dehradun, a town in north India which has become ‘home’ to Afghanistan.

This one-off Test match is only the second for Ireland and Afghanistan, two teams that have become familiar foes on the cricket pitch over the past decade. Both nations rightfully earned the Test tag and made their debuts in 2018 – Ireland at home in Malahide versus Pakistan, Afghanistan against India in Bangalore – with defeat being the result. While Asghar Afghan‘s team was utterly bossed by top-ranked India inside two days, Ireland stood up to Pakistan in a match that went into the final day.

This one-off Test offers both teams a chance at victory, which will be historic no matter how you view it.

Asghar Afghan and William Porterfield pose with the series trophy.
Asghar Afghan and William Porterfield pose with the series trophy. (Image: ACB Media)

Located in the capital of Uttarakhand, Dehradun – against the foothills of the vast Himalayan mountain range – may offer Ireland a glimpse of home if they cast their eyes upwards towards the hill town of Mussoorie, but in truth they are far removed from home. As William Porterfield stated, this is not Malahide and Ireland are up against the conditions. (READ: Trophy unveiled for Afghanistan vs Ireland Test in Dehradun)

The T20Is were a virtually one-team showing with Afghanistan winning 3-0, but the five-match ODI series that followed saw Ireland fight back to level 2-2 (one match was washed out). If Porterfield’s team can channel the gains of that result into this Test, they will be better for it.

For Afghanistan, having success here is a factor, but more than that it the spin strength they posses that sets them aside as the bigger challenge.

Match details

What: Afghanistan vs Ireland, one-off Test

When: Friday, March 15

Where: Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium, Dehradun

Time: 10:00 IST

Team news

Afghanistan

The uncapped teenaged lef-arm wristspinner Zahir Khan is a good chance to make his Test debut, with Afghanistan expected to challenge Ireland with spin. Zahir, just 17, has taken 34 wickets in seven first-class matches. Should he play, Afghanistan will have three frontline spinners.

With Afsar Zazai not selected, the rookie wicketkeeper-batsman Ikram Ali Khil looks set to make his Test debut.

Likely XI: 1 Mohammad Shahzad, 2 Javed Ahmadi, 3 Rahmat Shah, 4 Ikram Ali Khil (wk), 5 Hashmatullah Shahidi, 6 Asghar Afghan (capt), 7 Mohammad Nabi, 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Yamin Ahmadzai, 10 Wafadar, 11 Zahir Khan

Ireland

The squad is good mix of experience and youth, with Porterfield, Boyd Rankin, Tim Murtagh, George Dockrell, Kevin O’Brien and Paul Stirling the key influencers. Rankin, 34, has played each match of Ireland’s tour and could be a handful on the Dehradun track. O’Brien, who scored Ireland’s maiden Test century, is a massive figure as allrounder. With Ed Joyce now retired, the top-order batsman Andy Balbirnie could open alongside Porterfield.

Those lined up for Test debuts are the allrounder Simi Singh, batsman James McCollum, wicketkeeper-batsman Stuart Poynter, experienced left-arm spinner Dockrell and seam bowler Andy McBrine.

Likely XI: 1 William Porterfield (capt), 2 Andy Balbirnie, 3 Paul Stirling, 4 James McCollum, 5 Stuart Poynter (wk), 6 Kevin O’Brien, 7 Simi Singh, 8 Andy McBrine, 9 George Dockrell, 10 Boyd Rankin, 11 Tim Murtagh

Pitch and conditions

The Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium has never hosted a Test match, so the closest reference point is three Ranji Trophy matches played in Dehradun this season. In these, hosts Uttarakhand once bowled out Bihar for just 60 and in another versus Meghalaya posted 491/4.

The Afghanistan team has played 11 international games in Dehradun.
The Afghanistan team has played 11 international games in Dehradun. (Image: ACB Media)

Spin and seam have both had a say, with Afghanistan’s fixtures here the biggest indication. The first internationals played there were three T20Is between Afghanistan and Bangladesh last year, and ODI cricket began in Dehradun last month when Ireland landed.

The weather in Dehradun has been pleasant, with temperatures in the low-20s. The forecast for the next five days is mostly sunny.

Stats

Dockrell, despite being Ireland’s second-highest wicket-taker across formats and second-most capped player, has not played a Test.

Rankin is in line to play his 94th international game for Ireland. He is the country’s third-highest wicket-taker with 122.

Rashid is Afghanistan’s most successful bowler with 198 international wickets across formats.

Balbirnie’s 145 last week is Ireland’s third highest ODI score and contained a record eight sixes.

Asghar is coming off three successive fifties for Afghanistan, a record.

Quotes

“It will be another key battle in the Test match – our bowlers versus their batters – and if we bowl well it will give us a great chance to win the Test.” – Boyd Rankin

“It is a moment of pride that Afghanistan hosts its first Test match and it carries a lot of meaning for us.” – Asghar Afghan