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Andy Balbirnie on Ireland’s maiden Test win – Glad to get the ‘monkey off our backs’

Ireland captain Andy Balbirnie is glad to finally have the “monkey off their backs” and is hopeful Ireland’s maiden Test win will “inspire people back home to want to be Test match cricketers”. Seven years since first making their Test debut and in their eighth attempt, Ireland finally got their first win in the longest format of the game getting the better of Afghanistan by six wickets in Abu Dhabi.

“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,” a beaming Balbirnie said after the one-off Test against Afghanistan.

It was a Test dominated by Ireland right from the outset. Fast bowler Mark Adair cut through the Afghanistan batting unit on day one, picking up 5 for 39. Paul Stirling‘s fifty and crucial 40s from Lorcan Tucker and Curtis Campher helped Ireland take a 108-run lead.

Adair picked up a three-wicket haul again in Afghanistan’s second innings as they were bowled out for 218. Chasing 111, Ireland were in a spot of bother at 13 for 3, but Balbirnie held his nerves with an unbeaten 58 to take his side over the line late on the third day.

“We started the Test really well after losing the toss,” Balbirnie said. “The bowling was outstanding and really disciplined. With the score [target] like that, you are one partnership away, the more time we spent there, the easier it got. Obviously there were nerves, we were chasing our first win, but I knew if I could settle in there, we could win.”

Balbirnie was also effusive in praise of the fast bowlers, who picked up 19 of the 20 wickets to fall. There were three debutants in the Ireland XI – Barry McCarthy, Craig Young and Theo van Woerkom – all of whom gave good support to Adair.

“We knew it would be attritional stuff, probably swung a bit more on that first day, but we still had to bowl well and create chances,” Balbirnie said. “And I think we did that. The spinners came into the game as well, created chances, tied down ends when they needed to 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.”

Adair had a huge role to play in Ireland’s maiden Test win finishing with 8 for 95, the best bowling figures for an Irishman in Test cricket. He said that he was “absolutely buzzing” with the win, especially after the losses they have suffered over the years.

“I am absolutely buzzing if I am honest,” Adair, who was named player of the match said. “The way the lads put out a few fires there at the end and a bit nervy on the way home. But it was obviously nice to get a win.”

“The lads are absolutely brilliant and I am absolutely chuffed for them. Last year Test cricket was pretty difficult. We found ourselves on the losing side everytime and it was just tough. This is a really stepping stone for us and hopefully we get back in the whites in August time and chase [win] number two.”

The way the entire bowling attack stood up was what helped Ireland pull through, something which pleased Adair to no end.

“We have got a really good bowling group and I think that is what really matters,” Adair said. “These lads here have played a lot of cricket and I think we have the most experienced bowling group we’ve had in a long time. There are new guys coming in but at the same time we still have that core.”

Ireland might have made their Test debut in 2018, but they have only played seven more times since then. Does the win open up more opportunities for them then?

“You have to look at how busy the schedule is,” Balbirnie said. “There is a lot of cricket in the world going on. We know that we are 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 result and create history.

“We have done that now. It is nice to get the monkey off the back. There was a list coming up the screen every so often about how when the first Test win came. Very special to be a part of the group to do that.”

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