Ireland v Pakistan, Only Test, Malahide May 13, 2018

Kimber: After the dream, the reality for Ireland

Ed Joyce, William Porterfield and Niall O'Brien have waited most of their professional career for a chance at Test cricket: their first innings were done inside eight overs

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'Wilson's the one you want in the trenches with you' - Joyce

Kevin O'Brien's got no idea where the ball is. He knows Mohammad Abbas has bowled an excellent straight ball, and then he has frantically got some bat on it. The ball is behind him, he can hear the excitement of the Pakistan fielders, but he still hasn't found the ball. He's under attack, as are Ireland, and neither know what to do. After much panic, O'Brien finds the ball near his stumps just as he's about to become the fifth wicket before Ireland have scored ten runs.

O'Brien was supposed to be batting at seven. Instead, he was in at the end of the eighth over. This was supposed to be a great chance for Ireland to win a Test. Instead, they are in ruins.

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Ed Joyce is the easiest player to link to the history of Irish cricket, as he was around when Irish cricket was an amateur club game, and he is now a Test player. Watching Joyce in the field you realise he is an older player. He still looks fit, but he doesn't always react quickly, after some robust fielding he walked like he'd been riding a horse all day, maybe all year. He's had knee and hip problems, and that familiar loping gait looks a little rustier than it used to look.

But to get here Joyce has done more than most Test players. He's played 656 professional games, making over 30,000 runs and represented Ireland 150 times. Ed Joyce wasn't born in a country that had Test cricket, nor the dream of Test cricket. But it was always his dream. And 21 years after his debut for Ireland, he takes guard in a Test match for his team. And after all that, he only gets four balls, one single, a defensive push, a clip to leg, and then is given out on an lbw that looked to have pitched outside leg.

It took Ed Joyce over 30,000 runs to get here; it took Ireland over 50,000 days to get here.

After Joyce, William Porterfield who has fought for Ireland on the field and in press conferences and Niall O'Brien, who seems to be friends with everyone in cricket, are out too. Almost five hundred Ireland caps between them, but one Test, and when Niall O'Brien leaves, they are 7 for 4. The three men who have been waiting for the longest, trying the hardest, the best of Irish cricket, are the first to go.

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Stuart Thompson played a little nudge to the leg side, it was a controlled shot, trying to be as careful as possible. The only problem was the ball, which was spinning in a different direction, which in cricket terms meant Thompson was in Clontarf, and the wrong'un was taking his off stump at Malahide. At that point Thompson, for the second time this match, stood up. He'd not scored many runs, but by standing out in the middle for a period he looked like one of the more composed batsmen.

The problem was Shadab Khan. Ireland have a poor recent history against spin. When they played Zimbabwe at the World Cup qualifiers Zimbabwe used four spinners and embarrassed Ireland. Graeme Cremer, the handy legspinner, took 3 for 18. Cremer is no Shadab.

It took two balls for Shadab to work out Tyrone Kane. For the first ball, Kane left it outside off stump. Whether it be a wrong'un or slider, the next one was going to be at the stumps, something Kane realised too late, and all he could do is get an inside edge and get caught in close. Because of Rashid Khan, Ireland have had some experience with explosive teenage legspin, but this time their middle order was exposed, as their top order never showed.

I didn't want to miss a chance to bat in a Test match, they just drugged me up and I got out there and got on with it
Gary Wilson on battling through the pain

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Gary Wilson has been told to face as much Shadab as he can, so he takes off for a single that is there, but that requires a dive. Wilson dives on at best a very swollen arm, at worst a broken elbow. When in the nets a ball hit him on the arm. "I went for an X-ray, and there may be a little crack in it." Ireland had time for a scan, but not enough time to get a formal diagnosis. They were hoping Wilson would have more time to heal or at least some time to rest. Instead, he's in at No. 9, but only in the 23rd over.

Wilson had worked out he couldn't hit the ball in front of square, and he has an arm guard on inside out, protecting the break. He plays a reverse sweep, but instead of enjoying the four runs it brings, he grimaces. Clutching at his arm, he gets up from his stance and then walks out to short fine leg to take deep breaths.

Facing Abbas, he plays and misses before slashing one away over backward point. Again Wilson doesn't enjoy the shot. They will be the last runs made in the first innings, by a batsman coming in at nine, with a twisted arm guard and a grimace.

As he walked off he had to wonder what Ireland's day might have been like if he had come to the crease fully fit and when he was supposed to. "I didn't want to miss a chance to bat in a Test match, they just drugged me up and I got out there and got on with it". Ireland scored more with Wilson out there than they had before.

Mohammad Amir ripped out William Porterfield's off stump © Sportsfile/Getty Images

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Paul Stirling is not a quality first-class batsman, he barely averages 30, but he can bat. As a T20 player, he's got the attention of overseas franchises. And he can strike a ball, like the over when Abbas, who already had three wickets, got it wrong twice, and Stirling smashed balls through point. But then Faheem Ashraf dropped one short and wide. Stirling got caught between a cut and a pull, and he played neither. It was a bottom handed faff, a burp pretending to be a cricket shot, and he had plenty of chance to think about it as the ball floated for an age before finding mid-off.

The other white ball specialist was Kevin O'Brien, and despite his nervy start, he looked the best of the Irish batsmen. When he reached forty, he was 55% of the total. He was set, and was playing his shots, when he received one in his wheelhouse.

O'Brien leans back and cracks the ball into the off side; he doesn't get much on it. And from the time it leaves the bat it's clear it's only going straight to Imam-ul-Haq, who takes an easy chance. O'Brien stands in his crease for a moment before leaving the ground.

As he gets about 20 metres past the pitch, he sees a tiny bit of plastic that has floated onto the ground, and he slows, and kicks at it, hard. Despite his massive feet, the plastic goes only an inch, and he thinks about stopping, but in things like this, you only get one chance.

That plastic was not that far from where Sarfraz Ahmed had been caught on day two when Pakistan fell to 159 for 6. Ireland would make it to 130. The best of days, the worst of days.

Jarrod Kimber is a writer for ESPNcricinfo. @ajarrodkimber

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