Ireland on brink of historic win in Dubai

Afghanistan

Ireland need just five more wickets to lift their fourth ICC Intercontinental Cup and achieve a historic treble after reducing Afghanistan to 136/5 on the third day of the first-class final in Dubai.

Ireland need just five more wickets to lift their fourth ICC Intercontinental Cup and achieve a historic treble after reducing Afghanistan to 136/5 on the third day of the first-class final in Dubai.

Left-arm spinner George Dockrell took three wickets in Thursday's final session to leave the defending champions toiling in their pursuit of 347 for victory, after Ireland had earlier lost seven wickets for just 97 runs.

Half-centuries from Ed Joyce and Niall O'Brien had put Ireland into a commanding position after the opening two days saw the impetus fluctuate between the sides but the departure of Joyce for 78 in the first over sparked an Afghan fightback. Phil Simmons' side failed to fulfill their intention of batting for the duration of the day as they were dismissed for 341, setting their opponents a steep victory target.

The defending champions' task was heightened further when a battle weary Trent Johnston trapped Shabir Noori leg before wicket, however, the 39-year-old was forced off the field an over later with an Achilles strain. The veteran all-rounder faces an anxious wait to see if he can return to the action for the final time before he retires at the end of the game.

Nawroz Mangal and Mohammad Shahzad took advantage of Ireland's limited bowling resources by adding 57 for the second wicket with an aggressive approach but Johnston's replacement, John Mooney, replicated his first innings heroics – during which he took five wickets – to break the partnership by accounting for Mangal.

Shahzad had threatened to swing the momentum back in his side's favour with eight boundaries but Dockrell ended his innings with an instinctive catch off his own bowling. The 21-year-old then bowled Ashgar Stanikzai (2) and trapped Afsar Zazai (0) to leave Afghanistan reeling on 85/5.

With his side on the racks, captain Mohammad Nabi adopted a more conservative approach and alongside Rehmat Shah, saw the Asian outfit through to the close of play without further damage by adding 53 runs for the sixth wicket during the final 21 overs of the day.

"It's not the way we would have scripted it but we're content at where we find ourselves heading into the fourth day," Irish captain William Porterfield said.

"They got away from us a bit in terms of the run-rate early on but that's expected with the way the pitch has flattened out and the fact it's easier to score against the new ball. George [Dockrell] bowled really well for us again and put us in a good position but there is still a long way to go."

As expected, the slow bowlers have played a prominent role on a deteriorating pitch at the Global Academy. Earlier, Afghan captain Nabi recorded figures of 4/38 as Ireland lost four wickets either side of lunch.

Joyce had added just four to his overnight score before being bowled with O'Brien falling thirteen runs short of a deserved century. Niall's brother, Kevin, and Johnston ensured Phil Simmons' side remained in the ascendancy as they thrust the total past towards the 350 mark.

Those runs could prove crucial this morning as Ireland pursue the five wickets required to complete an unique hat-trick having already lifted the World Cricket League and World Twenty20 Qualifier trophies in 2013.

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