Asghar Afghan, the Afghanistan captain, detailed just how important and joyous their seven-wicket triumph over Ireland was in the one-off Test in Dehradun on Monday, 18 March.
It was their maiden Test victory, in just their second ever Test – the latest feat by a team that’s made a habit of it. Apart from Australia, who won in their maiden Test, only England and Pakistan have secured a Test win within two matches.
Just how much the victory meant was summed up by Afghan. “Happy for today, it’s a very historic day for Afghanistan, for Afghanistan people, for our team, for our cricket board. We are very happy,” he said.
“When [we play] a lot of Test matches, we mature. Nowadays, we’re playing a lot in Afghanistan first-class cricket. Before, it was three-day, two-day cricket. Now we’re playing first-class cricket.
“It was our dream to play Test cricket. It was just our second Test and we won the game. I’ll give a lot of credit to our bowlers, especially Rashid Khan, Waqar (Salamkheil), Yamin (Ahmadzai), and (Mohammad) Nabi. They bowled very well, on a wicket that was good for batting.”
Apart from the bowling quartet, one of Afghanistan’s stars was Rahmat Shah. He put behind poor form in the ODIs – he scored just one half-century in five outings – to score two in as many innings in Test whites.
He was unfortunate to miss out on a century by two runs in the first innings, and having done the hard work in the second, scoring a 122-ball 76, he was dismissed with just three runs required to seal victory.
However, during the course of his knock he displayed good temperament for Tests, and that is something that bodes well for Afghanistan. “I’d like to congratulate the country for this win,” he said after winning the Player of the Match award.
“There was a difference in the pitches – the ODI wickets were suitable for spin, this was better for batting. I stayed at the wicket, that was important. We played session by session, and tried to win the match, but I’d like to give credit to the bowlers, they bowled really well.”
As for Ireland, there were some smiles, despite being beaten within four days in their second ever Test. Their captain, William Porterfield, reminded everyone that quite a few of their players were playing only their second Test ever while the rest of the team – five players, to be precise – were making their debuts.
Despite that, they troubled Afghanistan considerably, and had they been able to do better with the bat in the first innings, they might yet have been able to change the eventual result.
“It’s obviously the first innings that went wrong for us,” he said at the post-match presentation. “It was big toss to win. Any multi-day game, the first innings you got to capitalise on,” he said.
“If you had done that, batted remotely like we batted in the second innings, it could have been a completely different game. Then you’re talking about potentially chasing upwards of 280 to 300, which could have been a completely different story.”
But that being said, Porterfield wasn’t making excuses. Afghanistan bossed them with both bat and ball in the crucial stages of the match, and he gave credit where it was due. “Take nothing away from Afghanistan,” he said. “They played very well throughout the whole game, and came out deserved winners.
“You want the lads to kick on and make big contributions. We didn’t do that in the first innings. We’re obviously looking to come back into the game from that. Once Afghanistan got past us, they never really let us [back].”