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Ireland face Afghanistan in both nations' second-ever Test

Rashid Khan and Mohammed Nabi

International Test match – Afghanistan v Ireland
Venue: Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium, Dehradun, India Dates: 15-19 March Start: 04:30 GMT
Coverage: Live scorecard and reports on the BBC Sport website; updates on BBC Radio Ulster

Ireland and Afghanistan continue their rivalry as they battle in the two countries’ second-ever Test which starts in Dehradun in India on Friday.

The Irish team’s home Test bow against Pakistan last May saw them producing a battling display in a five-wicket loss.

Afghanistan weren’t as competitive a month later as they succumbed inside two days against India in Bengaluru.

The sides go into the match after a T20 series won 3-0 by the Afghans which was followed by a drawn one-day series.

Indeed, the two teams surely know plenty about each other after meeting in 15 limited over contests since the start of 2018.

The Afghans have won 10 of those matches – including the high-pressure Super Sixes game at last year’s World Cup qualifier which was a winner-takes-all battle to secure a place in the tournament in England.

Andrew Balbirnie

Ireland will hope Balbirnie maintains form

With two of the games rained off, Ireland have only triumphed in three of the 15 contests but a couple of those wins came in the past 10 days as Andrew Balbirnie’s batting helped Graham Ford’s side draw the one-day series.

Balbirnie hit an unbeaten 145 as Ireland recovered from 73-4 to earn a four-wicket win in the third one-day international and after a dismal 109-run defeat two days later, the Dubliner’s knock of 68 helped the Irish clinch a comfortable five-wicket success on Sunday.

After having the misfortune to notch a pair in Malahide last May, the in-form Balbirnie says that a second chance to sample Test cricket is “very special”.

“It’s the game you grew up watching on TV, the home England Tests with Richie Benaud calling the game,” recalls the Dubliner.

“I’d sit there all day as a kid watching these games and hoping it would be me one day.

“Representing Ireland in any format is a dream come true so to be able to be one of the first to do it in Test cricket is obviously an even better feeling.”

Weather forecast dry for all five days

With the weather forecast dry for all five days in Dehradun, spin is expected to play a crucial part in the contest.

On the face of it, that looks to be to the Afghans’ advantage with talented youngster Rashid Khan again looking to weave his magic against the Irish.

Mohammad Nabi is another slow bowler who has caused Ireland problems while the Afghanistan selectors have also added left-arm wrist-spinner Zahir Khan to the squad.

Ireland will have to bat well to stay in the contest and in addition to Balbirnie, the performance of experienced Kevin O’Brien is likely to be crucial to their prospects.

O’Brien’s superb second-innings century briefly raised prospects of a shock comeback win against Pakistan last May and his composed unbeaten knock of 33 helped get the Irish over the line in Sunday’s one-day contest.

Squads

Afghanistan: Asghar Afghan (capt), Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Ihsanullah Janat, Javed Ahmadi, Rahmat Shah, Nasir Jamal, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Ikram Alikhail, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Wafadar Momand, Yamin Ahmadzai, Sharafudin Ashraf, Waqar Salamkhail, Zahir Khan, Sayed Shirzad

Ireland: William Porterfield (capt), Andrew Balbirnie, James Cameron-Dow, George Dockrell, Andy McBrine, Barry McCarthy, James McCollum, Tim Murtagh, Kevin O’Brien, Stuart Poynter (wk), Boyd Rankin, Simi Singh, Paul Stirling, Stuart Thompson, Lorcan Tucker

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