Imam-ul-Haq sees Pakistan to victory over Test debutants Ireland

Pakistan's Imam-ul-Haq celebrates after beating Ireland on the final day of Ireland's inaugural Test match against Pakistan in Malahide. (REUTERS)
Updated 16 May 2018
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Imam-ul-Haq sees Pakistan to victory over Test debutants Ireland

  • Nephew of Inzamam hits his maiden 50 at this level.
  • Pakistan recover from wobble to win by five wickets

DUBLIN: Pakistan debutant Imam-ul-Haq saw his side to victory as Ireland's first match in men's Test cricket ended in a gallant last-day defeat by five wickets at Malahide on Tuesday.
Pakistan, set a seemingly modest 160 to win, after earlier making Ireland follow-on, collapsed to 14 for three before lunch on the fifth day.
But 22-year-old left-handed opener Imam, the nephew of Pakistan selection chief and former Test batsman Inzamam-ul-Haq, responded to the pressure with 74 not out — his maiden 50 at this level.
Together with Babar Azam, who made 59 after being dropped on nine, he kept Ireland at bay during a fourth-wicket stand of 126.
Imam hit the winning runs as grey clouds threatening rain hung over Malahide.
Victory was a good way for Pakistan to prepare for the first of a two-Test series against England at Lord's starting on May 24.
Just four balls into their chase, Pakistan saw Azhar Ali edge Tim Murtagh to Paul Stirling at first slip.
Haris Sohail (seven) fell next, well taken in the gully by Ed Joyce off towering fast bowler Boyd Rankin as Ireland's two former England internationals combined.
And 13 for two became 14 for three in 4.3 overs when Middlesex paceman Murtagh produced a superb delivery to bowl Asad Shafiq between bat and pad for one.
Imam, who bats in spectacles, showed a maturity beyond many of his more experienced top-order colleagues.
He struck two fine fours off Stuart Thompson, a square cut followed by a square drive.
Ireland needed to take every chance that came their way but, with Babar yet to add to his interval score, he was dropped in the slips by Andrew Balbirnie.
Imam, having cover driven a four off Rankin, completed a 61-ball fifty with seven boundaries -- the third time he had reached the landmark this tour after half-centuries in warm-up matches against Kent and Northamptonshire.
Babar, cashed in to make a 61-ball fifty.
But with Pakistan 20 runs shy of victory, a mix-up saw Babar run out.
There was still time for Ireland to take a couple more wickets but by then the match had escaped their grasp.
Earlier, Ireland were dismissed for 339 in their second innings.
Kevin O'Brien, who on Monday became the first Ireland batsman to score a Test hundred, fell to his first ball Tuesday as Mohammad Abbas had him caught by Haris at slip for 118.
The Irish, resuming on 319 for seven, saw Abbas then take three wickets for 12 runs in 22 balls, the paceman finishing with an innings haul of five for 66 in 28.3 overs.
Only three sides in the 141-year history of Test cricket had won after being made to follow on and only one men's team -- Australia in the inaugural Test against England at Melbourne in 1877 -- had enjoyed a victory in their debut match at this level.
Ireland were facing an innings defeat when man-of-the-match O'Brien came in at 95 for four but, ably assisted by Stuart Thompson, who made 53, he turned the tide during a seventh-wicket partnership of 114.
But after Tyrone Kane had seen out Tuesday's opening over from Mohammad Amir, who took his 100th Test wicket on Monday, Abbas struck.
O'Brien going down on one knee to attempt a slashing drive off a wide half-volley from Abbas, nicked to Haris.
A crestfallen O'Brien bowed his head in frustration and dropped his bat as he trudged off the field.
But the 34-year-old had every reason to be proud of an innings that spanned five hours, 44 minutes and saw him face 217 balls with 12 fours.


Van Dijk backs Salah to shine in Kiev showpiece

Updated 26 May 2018
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Van Dijk backs Salah to shine in Kiev showpiece

  • Virgil van Dijk: He (Mohamed Salah) is a nightmare for defenders, creating and scoring goals.”
  • Van Dijk: “To be calm, that is sometimes a very good thing to have, but personally sometimes I have to learn, too.”

LIVERPOOL: As Mohamed Salah prepares for a career-defining period, Virgil van Dijk is confident his Liverpool teammate’s star will only shine brighter on football’s biggest stages.
The Liverpool frontman will face-off with Ballon d’Or rival Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid tonight in the Champions League final before heading off to a debut World Cup with Egypt.
And having witnessed an incredible season that has brought 44 goals — a record 32 in the Premier League ­— for the Egyptian star, Reds defender van Dijk says he has the all-round ability to strike fear into the reigning European champions and international sides.
“He is a nightmare for defenders, creating and scoring goals,” said the Dutchman of the 25-year-old Salah. “It’s complete for him.
“He’s like everyone in our squad, laidback, calm, no big personalities and egos. We work hard for each other and just want to be better.
“I think he can definitely be the best in Europe, but there are two other players who are pretty good at the moment as well (in Ronaldo and Lionel Messi). I hope for Mo it happens because he deserves it. He is that kind of player to light up a World Cup as well.”
While all eyes will be on Salah and Ronaldo as potential match-winners in Kiev, van Dijk, 26, will have a major role on the defensive front.
The game will offer the center-back the chance to prove he was worth the £75 million ($100 million) it cost to sign him from Southampton in January.
“Any player who arrived at this club, they want to play in these games, they want to be under this kind of pressure, they want to get trophies,” he said.
“I don’t think I have been bought to win the Champions League final. I have been bought to hopefully get the best out of myself and the best out of the team with the help of everyone else.
“To be calm, that is sometimes a very good thing to have, but personally sometimes I have to learn, too.
“Against Manchester City in the away game (of the quarter final) I was a little bit too calm in the beginning, for example. That is something I have to learn as well. To be in the final right now, it has been a crazy journey.”
Watching last season’s final between Real and Juventus, van Dijk realized just how much he wanted to be a part of the competition — and why Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool were the club for him, despite interest from City.
“I never really go to big games to watch as a fan, but I was in Cardiff,” he recalled. “The sponsors (Sony) hooked us up with two fantastic seats and it was two hours from where I used to live, so we thought, ‘let’s go.’
“From the moment I got there a lot of people in hospitality were Liverpool fans and they were saying, ‘join, please join.’