Irish cricket finally joins the top table

William Porterfield has thanked those that have paved the way for him and his Ireland colleagues to make Test history today.

Ireland will become the 11th nation to play the longest format - and the first since Bangladesh’s own initial contest in 2000 - when they face Pakistan at Malahide Cricket Club in their inaugural five-day match.

The International Cricket Council granted Ireland full membership last year. But they were first awarded associate status back in 1993, and it has been a long, challenging road - both for those out in the middle and others in the background - to ensure Ireland received this recognition.

“There has been a lot of banging the drum,” Ireland captain Porterfield said.

It’s going to be a pretty special occasion for the 11 that are lucky enough to take (to) the park.

“We’ve mentioned it amongst the squad, it would be pretty remiss if we didn’t talk about everything that’s gone before us.

“Not only over the last five, 10 years, but every cricketer that’s ever played for Ireland, the administrators - there’s been a lot of people that have devoted a lot of their lives to Irish cricket to make this day happen.

“It just culminates in us being lucky enough to be the ones at that time in our careers to be able to take to the pitch to play that first Test match.

“Everyone that’s ever worn the jersey and done things behind the scenes and devoted their lives to it deserve a lot of credit for what’s going to happen.”

Ireland have joined the sport’s top table at a time when there are ongoing fears over Test cricket’s standing in the game’s hierarchy.

Earlier this month, Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom told the42.ie this match would “probably cost us around 1million euros” - a figure they will not recoup in terms of ticketing and hospitality.

However, the hope is that taking a seat alongside cricket’s leading nations, and the financial benefits such a position brings, will help develop the sport in the country.

“Last June, the decision in terms of becoming a full member, Test cricket obviously comes along with that, but the biggest thing is probably getting the full membership,” Porterfield added.

This week is all about Test cricket but doors and the financial aspect hopefully open up with being a full member.

“It allows us to completely grow the game within Ireland, allows it to become more sustainable.”

Pakistan will hand a debut to opener Imam-ul-Haq, the nephew of Inzamam-ul-Haq, who amassed nearly 9,000 Test runs in his career.

Their skipper Sarfraz Ahmed said it was a privilege to provide the opposition for Ireland’s historic moment.

“I think it’s a great achievement for Ireland to play Test cricket,” he noted.

“After this Test, there will be more cricketers and kids will be coming to play cricket as well.

It is a big honour for me and my team to play this historic Test match.

“Everyone will see this match so we are very ready to play, it’s a great match to play in.”

A two-Test series against England follows the game against Ireland and Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed believes it will be tough to beat the ‘boys in green’.

“We are very happy to play a historic Test match in Ireland and hopeful to have a good match - our preparations have been very good,” he said.

“The Ireland guys know how to play four-day cricket, so it is not easy to beat them. All the pressure is on us because we are the Test team.

“We will have to play well to win. Conditions are very different to Pakistan and hopefully the weather is good and we’ll play good cricket. We would love to play Ireland in Pakistan.”

Ireland Test squad:

William Porterfield (capt), Andrew Balbirnie, Ed Joyce, Tyrone Kane, Andrew McBrine, Tim Murtagh, Kevin O’Brien, Niall O’Brien (wk), Boyd Rankin, James Shannon, Craig Young, Paul Stirling, Stuart Thompson, Gary Wilson (wk).

Pakistan Test squad:

Sarfraz Ahmed (capt & wk), Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Amir, Rahat Ali, Saad Ali, Sami Aslam, Shadab Khan, Usman Salahuddin.


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