Ireland are set to play their first men’s international cricket test match, facing off against Pakistan in Malahide this weekend.
The game gets underway on Friday (May 11), with the possibility of play continuing across five days into Tuesday.
With the home side having battled hard to gain test status over a number of years, every announcement ahead of the game takes an air of history for the sport on the Emerald Isle. Prior to the approval of Ireland and Afghanistan’s new status last summer, Bangladesh were the last country to be granted membership of the elite test nation club back in 2000.
The first Ireland test squad includes players from all over the island, including a number of Leinster Lightning players
The hugely experienced batsman Ed Joyce – of Donnybrook club Merrion – a man who, at 39, probably thought he’d never get to play test cricket for Ireland.
The Bray man previously represented England to pursue a test cricket career, lining out for them in 2006 and 2007 before taking three years out of the international game before returning to Irish colours.
He is joined in the line-up by Dubliners Andrew Balbirnie (Pembroke) and Sandymount brothers Niall and Kevin O’Brien in the final squad, from which the starting 11 will be decided ahead of the first ball on Friday morning.
Captain William Porterfield told The 42 ahead of the game that reaching such a status is massive. “You could say it has happened quickly,” he said, “but it depends on what timelines you look back on.
“If you look back on our first World Cup in 2007 and said 11 years later, you’d be playing a Test match, you probably wouldn’t have believed it. But then when you think of everything that has been achieved on and off the pitch, then it doesn’t come as a surprise.
“To finally get here is massive, but it’s only one piece of the overall picture. One of the biggest things for ourselves is full membership and everything that comes with it, such as more fixtures and more funding.
“That will ensure the game is sustainable in Ireland long after we’re gone. It’s about leaving it in a better place for the next generations.”
Pakistan are strong favourites for the clash with the Asian side currently ranked seventh in the world at test cricket. Ireland, as yet, are unranked in the long form of the game having not played a game.
The men in green rank 12th – and bottom of the current test-playing nations – in the current One Day International rankings, the nearest equivalent to a test ranking.
Ireland head coach Graham Ford, the South African former coach of world class Sri Lanka and English county outfit Surrey, has been cautiously optimistic ahead of the contest.
He admits that Ireland are still very much a developing side, but cites strong performances lower down cricket’s ladder as reasons to believe the side have the potential to achieve at a higher level.
There was some other good news for the team ahead of the contest in Malahide: the news that Pakistan are expected to offer Ireland a return trip during the winter.
Whether Ireland take up this offer may depend on their thoughts on the security situation in Pakistan where there’s a long history of problems for touring teams. In between, Ireland play India in the popular T20 version of the game in late June.
Cricket Ireland also recent confirmed Aideen Rice of Dublin’s YMCA Cricket Club as the first female president in their nearly 100 year history.