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Their First Test Encounter: When Irish Eyes are Gleaming

May 13, 2018

Jarrod Kimber, courtesy of ESPNcricinfo, 11 May 2018, where the title is

Michael Halliday, the former Ireland captain, has a broken pub roof tile on his mantelpiece. It is signed by Imran Khan. Because it was Imran who hit him out of Pagham Cricket ground when playing for Sussex against Ireland in 1977. Imran Khan made a hundred that day.

 

When Imran bowled all the men were behind square, especially when tailenders Halliday and Podge Hughes were batting. Hughes was fairly quick himself, but Imran was near his peak pace, and 20 miles quicker than most Irish bowlers. Hughes decided to back away when playing Imran, swinging hard and slicing him over third man. Imran just bowled quicker. Hughes was backing away so much, Imran had to bowl very wide down the leg side just to bowl at him. Hughes ducked, and the ball hit him and flew away for four leg byes.

Ireland had to chase 200. Opener John Short made 99, but it was Hughes at the crease again who got them over the line with three wickets in hand.

A Presidential snub

Ireland and Pakistan first met in 1962, in a two-day match at College Park in Dublin. Ireland made 167 and had Pakistan in trouble at one stage at 64 for 6. Alec O’Riordan, Ireland’s greatest seamer, took three quick wickets but Pakistan recovered, Wallis Mathias and Fazal Mahmood holding on for the draw.

It was reported at the time that the manager of the Pakistan team asked for an official meeting with Ireland President Eamon de Valera. De Valera – according to legend – once threw down a cricket bat he was holding as he was afraid a photographer might catch him with this English sporting item. Unsurprisingly, de Valera declined the meeting.

Irish Alf Masood

In 1983 Ireland played Sussex again, and again the attention fell on a Pakistani player: Imran was playing again but this time it was a man known to Ireland cricket as Alf Masood. His full name is Mohammad Afzal Masood, and he made his first-class debut in 1968, batting at three for Rawalpindi.

The only reason Masood played for Ireland was because he came over to work in Dublin, and got roped into the cricket scene. Masood played 40 times for Ireland, averaging 38. Nineteen years after his first-class debut he played his last match, batting at four, against Scotland at Coleraine.

In the game against Sussex, Masood made 69, and after he hit another boundary, Imran – by now Pakistan captain – told him, “You have lost none of your talent, you could still play for Pakistan.”

The real first Test

According to Isobel Joyce, “Pakistan said, ‘Do you guys fancy playing a Test?‘ ‘Sure, we might as well,’ we said.” That was how Ireland’s first ever Test match was played in 2000 between the women of Pakistan and the women of Ireland. It was quaint, as that is not that much different from how Test cricket first began. The sad thing, of course, is that the Irish women haven’t played a Test since.

But that means they won their only Test, by an innings – it’s the best Test record ever.

The postmen rant

Trent Johnston gave a speech at the halfway point of the 2007 World Cup match against Pakistan. It contained, much in the usual style of Johnston, a lot of passion, and like his batting, it was delivered with some force.

The gist of the conversation was that if the players didn’t want to go back to their day jobs straight away, working as postmen and buying fabric, they had better win the game.

And it was Johnston, with a dirty slog off Azhar Mahmood on St Patrick’s Day, who changed Ireland’s entire cricket history.

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