Saturday 21 September 2019

Ireland close to agreeing Test match with England after Pakistan debut

Ireland played Somerset in a friendly match last month at Taunton
Ireland played Somerset in a friendly match last month at Taunton

Richard Edwards

Ireland are hopeful that the first Test in their history will soon be followed by another – against England as early as next summer.

The Irish take on Pakistan in Dublin on Friday, to open a new sporting chapter for a country that has made a habit of handing out bloody noses to some of world cricket's biggest names in recent years. And now Warren Deutrom, the chief executive of Cricket Ireland, is hopeful that a date with England can be booked, in either the Irish capital or at Lord’s, sooner rather than later.

"We are having discussions with the ECB and what I'll say is that they're positive discussions," he tells The Independent. "Let's put it this way – there's a willingness to play against us, I don't believe we're going to have to wait for Ireland's entry into the World Test Championship. There's still a bit of a way to go but I would be very hopeful of playing a Test against England.

"In the same way that Ireland was happy to trade a home match in Ireland for an away match at Lords last year, I think we would be similarly ammeniable to a discussion in Test cricket terms."

That's a fixture that would capture the imagination of both sides of the Irish Sea as Test cricket's newest nation, alongside Afghanistan, look to make progress having been awarded their new status by the ICC in June 2017.

Afghanistan will play their first Test against India in Bengluru in June and will doubtless be watching Ireland's first stab at the sport's longest-running format against Pakistan this week. A first day crowd of over 5,000 is expected at Malahide as Graham Ford's side look to inflict an early blow on the tourists before their two Test series begins against England later this month.

"We're probably only about a thousand tickets away from selling out day one, which is very encouraging," he says.

"If the weather is good then we'll have the walk-ups on the day and so we should have nice full houses for at least for the first couple of days of our inaugural Test. We've capped the capacity (at Malahide) at 6000 and if that means that we could have had a few more people in but we've got the 'sold out2 signs up, then I would have a problem with that.

"You're never going to get a dull game against Pakistan. We haven't had scores of full member teams falling over themselves to come here but Pakistan have been very, very good to us. We're delighted to welcome them. You never quite know what you’re going to get with the team that turns up but they're always exciting."

The pair have previous too with Ireland having beaten Pakistan in the 2007 World Cup in Jamaica. That win, which proceeded the tragic death of then Pakistan coach, Bob Woolmer, the following day, signalled the start of an enduring relationship between the two countries. Now Deutrom is hoping that their pair's friendship will result in Ireland playing Pakistan again soon, not necessarily in the UAE but in Pakistan itself.

"They forgave us really quickly (for that World Cup defeat)," he says. "This will be their third or fourth visit in the last six or seven years and this would be something we would be keen to reciprocate if and when the opportunity presents itself. And I don't just mean in the UAE, I mean travelling to Pakistan when they believe the time is right for us to do it."

A win for Ireland this week would be a hugely significant leap forward in Ireland's attempts at establishing themselves as a Test cricket force. Just hosting a Test in the first place, though, is a triumph for the Irish game, just 12 years after they were granted full ODI status by the ICC.

"Fans are going to turn-up and watch an historically Irish sporting first this week," says Deutrom. "That's really exciting for us. The way that we'll approach Test cricket in the future, and this is a personal view, is that we would play one or two, maximum, Test matches at home in the short-term until we get into the World Test Championship.

"We can treat these games as one-offs and market them as a real rarity. Let's face it, we know fully, that Test cricket isn't going to be the format of the game that's going to dramatically popularise the sport in Ireland. It's only our first Test match and, yes there could be an historical opportunity for the Irish players to really step-up, but I think to be any more optimistic about that would be overly optimistic."

Deutrom and the rest of the country, will hope the luck of Irish is about to kick in.

Independent News Service

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