Sunday 16 June 2019

Ireland could face England in historic Lord's Test

Ireland and England are in advanced talks regarding an historic four-day Test match at Lord’s next July (stock picture)
Ireland and England are in advanced talks regarding an historic four-day Test match at Lord’s next July (stock picture)

Tim Wigmore

Ireland and England are in advanced talks regarding an historic four-day Test match at Lord's next July, prior to the Ashes series. The match would be England's first-ever Test against Ireland, and their first four-day Test since 1971.

The Test is viewed by England as an essential part of their preparation for the Ashes series, which is expected to begin only 11 days after the World Cup final is played at Lord's. For those England players who play in both formats, the Test with Ireland is likely to be their only first-class game in the five months prior to the Ashes.

Ireland will view this fixture - especially as it will be at Lord's - as a seminal moment in their cricketing history.

Ireland were granted Test status last year, and played their inaugural Test against Pakistan at Malahide last month, when they impressed despite losing by five wickets.

They have played England once at Lord's before, a one-day international last year when the ground was almost a sell-out, suggesting that Ireland would be able to attract significant travelling support should there be a Lord's Test.

Although the exact date of the Test has not been confirmed, the probable dates of the game would be from July 18-21, meaning that the game would run from Thursday to Sunday.

The International Cricket Council approved four-day Test matches last year. South Africa played Zimbabwe in a four-day Test on St Stephen's Day, the first four-day Test since 1973.

The England & Wales Cricket Board is keen on trialling four-day Tests, with both chairman Colin Graves and chief executive Tom Harrison publicly supporting exploring the concept.

Boards and broadcasters believe that, by being played from Thursday to Sunday - like golf tournaments - four-day Tests would be easier for fans to watch.

England's defeat by nine wickets to Pakistan in the opening Test of the summer brought widespread criticism that the tourists were better prepared for the match. Pakistan's players said that their previous Test in Ireland had been crucial in enabling them to perform so impressively against England.

In previous years England have played first-class warm-up matches against counties prior to hosting the Ashes, but such games have inevitably lacked the intensity of Test cricket.

As well as helping England prepare for the Ashes, the match against Ireland may go some way to quelling criticism that England have not done enough to support the globalisation of cricket. Ehsan Mani, the former president of the ICC, recently called the ECB "self-serving" over their advocacy for cutting the size of next year's World Cup, which will feature only 10 teams, the lowest number since 1992.

The ICC's revised playing conditions for four-day Tests feature 98 overs per day - rather than 90 in five-day Tests. They also allow the follow-on to be enforced if a side has a first innings lead of 150 runs, rather than 200 in the five-day form.

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