Monday 23 September 2019

Pakistan lined up to pose first Irish Test

'Pakistan are touring England early next summer, with their first Test starting on May 24.' Photo: Getty Images\Stock Image
'Pakistan are touring England early next summer, with their first Test starting on May 24.' Photo: Getty Images\Stock Image

Ger Siggins

Ireland's first Test match opponents are almost certain to be Pakistan, with the historic fixture set for Malahide next May. Cricket Ireland officials fly to New Zealand this week for an ICC board meeting where they will lobby for international fixtures for the next two years.

According to a well-placed source, Cricket Ireland hopes to use the Auckland meeting to tie down the Pakistan Cricket Board with whom it has had several months of discussions. "The interim spadework has been done," the source said.

Pakistan are touring England early next summer, with their first Test starting on May 24. A potential Test match in Malahide would likely start around May 10. The Asians are popular visitors to Ireland, where more than 13,000 people of Pakistani origin live. Another 2,000 reside in Northern Ireland.

The Test is expected to be of five-day duration, but Warren Deutrom last week backed moves to cut Tests to four days.

South Africa have asked permission for a forthcoming four-day fixture with Zimbabwe to be classed as a Test, and the Cricket Ireland CEO sees merit in the move.

"I think our answer might reasonably be defined as more pragmatic and less purist than, perhaps, some of the longer-established Test nations," Deutrom told a cricket website. "After all, we can hardly complain about compromising the traditional rhythms of Test cricket when Ireland hasn't played one yet. In fact, one might even argue that the four-day experiment is more likely to suit us given our familiarity with the Intercontinental Cup.

"Our chasing of Test status was driven by the desire to play the sport's pinnacle format, to give our players the option of realising that dream for Ireland rather than having to resort to England, not to mention the sheer status, opportunity for visibility and commercial potential that comes with being a recognised member of the front rank of cricket's nations.

"If that prestige and those benefits can accrue by virtue of a four-day game rather than five then I suggest it is an experiment in which Ireland would be happy to participate."

Ireland beat Pakistan at the 2007 World Cup, a result that sparked the resurgence of the sport and led to its elevation to Test cricket last June. Since that game the sides have met eight times, with Pakistan winning seven and one game, at Clontarf in 2013, ending in a tie.

Because of terrorism, Pakistan have been unable to play at home for six years, resulting in a slump in their fortunes. But an exciting crop of fast bowlers and attacking batsmen has lifted them recently, and they were worthy winners of the Champions Trophy in July.

There could even be a second touring side playing a Test in 2017, if reports from Zimbabwe are true that their players have been briefed about a possible visit to Ireland next summer.

Ireland visit the African nation in March for crucial World Cup qualifiers, when new coach Graham Ford will be in harness. Outgoing head coach John Bracewell is being allowed to serve out his contract into December, reducing the period Ford will have to prepare his side by three months.

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