First-class status for interpros sees Irish cricket break another glass ceiling
Irish cricket had some welcome good news on Friday night with its newest interpro side exceeding expectations and running the Northern Knights close. Rain might have ruined Munster's chance of a stunning victory, but there was plenty to cheer in their return to competition since they dropped out in 2000.
The southern province has initially joined the Hanley Energy competition in just the T20 format and, to overcome a thin playing base, Cricket Ireland has handed coach Ted Williamson the pick of its Academy players. That meant five of the best Leinster youths were among the local, naturalised and 'granny rule' Munster men.
Ireland A batsman Jack Tector produced the highlight, his excellent 59 keeping Munster in the game before it became too dark to play and Knights snatched a Duckworth-Lewis win. He scotched the notion that the side wasn't a true Munster XI.
"When we are all together we're playing to win. We're a team. I think as the game develops you'll have more and more franchise cricket," he said. "This is a massive opportunity for the Academy guys and for our first game we performed well. Our bowling was really good but we got a rough deal from Duckworth-Lewis."
The interpros step up a gear this week when the North-West Warriors host the Knights in the three-day championship. The competition has been revitalised by a decision taken in Cape Town last October when ICC granted it first-class status.
ICC chief executive David Richardson said the competition "is well structured and provides a clear pathway for players from underage through to the national team. The Championship is professionally run, played mainly in international-standard venues and some games are live streamed. I'd like to commend Cricket Ireland on the work they have done to achieve first-class domestic status."
The interpro competition has long been high on the priority list for CI chief executive Warren Deutrom. "Playing first-class domestic cricket is a significant milestone on our long-stated journey to become a Test nation and is what the full members do - if we want to be considered among the front rank of nations, then so must we," he said.
"It's important as firstly it elevates the perception of the competition and places the inter-pros statistically and status-wise at the same level of all first-class cricket around the world in established Test nations."
The phrase 'first-class cricket' isn't just a term of approval, but a strictly defined and measured classification of games tightly guarded by the sport's authorities. It is part of the feudal system that the ancient sport imposes, a hierarchy with several glass ceilings that have only recently started to crack.
The first Irish first-class side was Dublin University, who were given the honour in 1895 after bowling out Warwickshire for 14. Ireland followed in 1902, while the soft drinks magnate Sir Stanley (C&C) Cochrane had a side who played first-class games on his estate at Woodbrook, near Bray.
Now the Knights, Warriors and Leinster Lightning will see their performances among the game's elite - and Munster have taken their first step in that direction.
Sunday Indo Sport