Niall O’Brien’s 87 and three wickets from George Dockrell has kept Ireland on top of their InterContinental Cup final clash with Afghanistan in Dubai.
They’ve reduced Afghanistan to 136 for five in their pursuit of a challenging 347 for victory.
Trent Johnston gave Ireland the perfect start as they looked to win the trophy for the fourth time, trapping Shabir Noori (8) in the first over of the Afghanistan reply.
However he left the field after just one additional over just before tea, never to return.
First innings hero John Mooney dismissed Nowroz Mangal (23), brilliantly caught off the inside edge by Niall O’Brien, clearly relishing his return behind the stumps.
George Dockrell then took centre stage, claiming three wickets in quick succession, including that of the dangerous Mohammed Shehzad (39).
The Somerset left-armer swooped brilliantly to take a sharp return low down to his right.
He then bowled Ashgar Stanikzai (2) and trapped Afsar Zazai (0) to have Afghanistan reeling on 85 for 5.
Ireland at that juncture were dreaming of a win inside three days, but resolute defence from Rehmat Shah (33*) and Mohammed Nabi (25*) ensured Afghanistan got through to the close without further damage - their sixth wicket stand currently worth 51.
Earlier in the day Ireland had lost Ed Joyce (78) in the first over but a fourth wicket stand of 81 between Niall O’Brien (87) and Andrew White (39) saw Ireland remain very much in the ascendancy.
White, John Anderson and John Mooney all fell cheaply as Mohammed Nabi (4-38) bowled superbly, but a breezy 47 in 43 balls from Kevin O’Brien (9 fours) and a pugnacious 31 from Trent Johnston in his final innings for Ireland ensured the lead went beyond the psychologically 300 mark, their final total being 341.
Ireland will start day four as the strongest of favourites to complete a historic treble, however they will be keen to remove the ever dangerous Mohammed Nabi, who has proved such a ferocious competitor in the past.
Ireland 187 all out and 341 all out (95.1 overs, Niall O’Brien 87, Ed Joyce 78, Kevin O’Brien 47, Andrew White 39, William Porterfield 34, Trent Johnston 31, Mohammed Nabi 4-38, Rehmat Shah 2-58, Mirwais Ashraf 2-63, Dawlat Zadran 2-110) Afghanistan 182 all out and 136/5 (43 overs, Mohammad Shehzad 39, Rehmat Shah 33*, Mohammed Nabi 25*, Nowroz Mangal 23, George Dockrell 3-26)