Ireland roll out big guns for UAE clash
Ireland will be at full strength for the opening match of their defence of the InterContinental Cup next month, with victory over the United Arab Emirates seen as a vital first step towards playing Test cricket in 2019.
Chairman of selectors Alan Lewis yesterday announced a 14-man squad for the four-day game in Malahide that includes all eight county players, including captain William Porterfield and Ed Joyce.
Ireland have won four of the last five editions of the first-class tournament, often without key players in the round-robin matches, but this time there is the huge incentive of the winner taking part in the Test Challenge against the lowest-ranked ICC Full Member.
Should Porterfield's side be successful in that, an inaugural Test match against England at Lord's in the early summer of 2019 will follow, so the IC Cup now carries a mandatory release from county duties and Lewis hopes all his big hitters will take the field on June 2.
Middlesex seam bowler Tim Murtagh is in the squad although he is sidelined with a hamstring injury but Alex Cusack has been rested ahead of an important schedule of T20 matches this summer, for which he is now seen as a specialist.
"Tim is progressing well and we really hope he makes it," said Lewis. "He has had a torrid time with injuries over the last few months and is itching to get back. Everyone surrounding the team would wish him well in that department."