Cricket: Irish set to renew rivalry with Pakistan
THE first fruits of Ireland's impressive labours at the World Cup are likely to be seen next week with the announcement of a one-day international (ODI) home series against Pakistan, to be played at the end of May.
Negotiations between Cricket Ireland and the Pakistanis are at an advanced stage, with a three-match series the most likely outcome, although one game in Belfast and one in Dublin is also a possibility.
It would be the first time the two sides have met in a 50-overs clash since Ireland's famous three-wicket victory over Pakistan at the 2007 World Cup.
While commentators were universally impressed with Ireland's latest campaign, it was generally agreed that to improve further Phil Simmons' side need more exposure to quality opposition between World Cup competitions.
Cricket Ireland are also keen to cash in on the interest generated by the Green Machine and avoid another damp squib of a homecoming like four years ago, when only a smattering of people turned up to watch a weakened side play Kent on a freezing April day in Belfast.
Ireland are already scheduled to play one game against Sri Lanka in Edinburgh in July but a mini-series against the team that topped qualifying Group A would be a major step forward.
Simmons underlined the point, saying: "We have been asking the International Cricket Council for a while for more games against the big boys. We want full-member ODI status because we are no longer playing to compete, we are playing to win.
"We need to get more games, not two or three in a year. We need to be given the chance to play the big boys because they all have respect for us now."
After a night in London, en route from Calcutta, the Ireland squad arrived back in Dublin yesterday for a luncheon reception hosted by sponsors RSA, followed by a party at the Russell Court Hotel, the unofficial headquarters of the Blarney Army.