Andrew Balbirnie explains the importance of Ireland’s first Test win

Ireland has produced some stunning results over the years. Their ODI World Cup wins against Pakistan in 2007 and England in 2011 are considered two of the biggest upsets in the history of the showpiece event. They added another monumental moment in their cricketing folklore as they notched up their first win in international red-ball cricket after defeating Afghanistan in a one-off Test in Abu Dhabi on Friday, March 1.

The European nation earned full member status in 2017. However, Tests have been few and far between for them. This was only Ireland’s eighth Test match in their cricketing history. Between July 27, 2019, to April 3, 2023, Ireland didn’t play any Test cricket. In 2023, they played two Tests against Sri Lanka and one each against Bangladesh and England.

Irish skipper Andrew Balbirnie hoped that the memorable triumph would go on to inspire the next generation to play the longest format of the game.

“It’s a lot bigger than cricket. Hopefully, we will inspire some people back home to want to be Test match cricketers and hopefully, we can back them up to do it,” the right-handed batter was quoted as saying by The Cricketer.

“You have to look at how busy the schedule is. There is a lot of cricket in the world going on. We know that we’re not going to get 10-15 Tests a year, that’s fine. But when we do get the opportunity, we are going to do our best to create results and create history. We have done that now. It is nice to get the monkey off the back,” the 33-year-old added.

Obviously there were nerves, we were chasing our first win: Andrew Balbirnie

Ireland bowled out Afghanistan for 155 in the first innings on the back of Mark Adair’s five-for. Paul Stirling scored a half-century as the Irish side took a decisive 108-run lead in the first innings. In their second innings, Afghanistan fared better with the bat but could only manage a lead of 110. Adair, Barry McCarthy, and Craig Young bagged three wickets each, while Theo van Woerkom chipped in with a solitary scalp.

Chasing a paltry target of 111 runs, Ireland looked quite nervous and lost four wickets for just 39 runs. However, Balbirnie scored an unbeaten 58 and stitched a 72-run partnership with Lorcan Tucker to take his team to a six-wicket win.

“Obviously there were nerves, we were chasing our first win, but I knew if I could settle in there, we could win,” Balbirnie added.

“We knew it would be attritional stuff, probably swung a bit more than on that first day, but we still had to bowl well and create chances. And I think we did that. The spinners came into the game as well, created chances, tied down ends when they needed as well. It was just an all-round performance and I think we deserved it. From the first day we won a lot of sessions out there and to win our first Test, we are absolutely ecstatic,” he ended.