Balbirnie half-century leads Ireland to productive 124-2

DEHRADUN, India (AP) — Andy Balbirnie hit a maiden test half-century and led Ireland to a productive 124-2 at lunch on the third day of the one-off test against Afghanistan on Sunday.

Balbirnie carried his one-day batting form into the five-day format with a brilliant unbeaten 73 off 139 balls while debutante James McCollum also batted solidly, remaining not out on 35.

The 91-run unbeaten second-wicket stand has left Ireland trailing by just 18 runs after Afghanistan notched a 142-run first innings lead.

Earlier, Ireland was unlucky to lose Paul Stirling (14) to an umpiring error when it resumed on 22-1.

Stirling was adjudged lbw in the fifth over of the day off fast bowler Yamin Ahmadzai (2-25) when television replays clearly showed the batsman had got a big inside edge.

But that was all Afghanistan could relish in the first session as Balbirnie and McCollum batted aggressively against spinners as Ireland added 102 runs in the session.

Balbirnie, who scored a century in the drawn 2-2 ODI series against Afghanistan, raised his 50 when he drove off spinner Mohammad Nabi off the backfoot to the cover boundary.

Both teams are competing in only their second test match since gaining test status in 2017. Last year, Afghanistan lost its debut test against India, and Ireland was beaten by Pakistan in its inaugural test.

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