Ireland’s long-term ambition to become a Test-playing nation was handed further weight after they narrowly fell short of an RSA Insurance ODI series wins in Dublin.
After the opening match ended in a dramatic tie Ireland looked set to claim a first series win over a full member when Pakistan crashed to 17 for four chasing 230 on Sunday.
It took a stunning counter attack from eighth-wicket pair Kamran Akmal and Wahab Riaz, who smashed 93 from 62 balls, to deny them a famous triumph by just two wickets.
It left Ireland to wonder what might have been for a second time in four days and skipper William Porterfield to admit they had been left heartbroken.
But after the dust had settled on the matches, in which Paul Stirling and Ed Joyce both scored centuries, Ireland had again vindicated claims they are a full member in waiting.
After the match Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq admitted the International Cricket Council (ICC) needed to consider Ireland for top-flight status, saying: “That’s purely on the ICC, but they are a better team now so the ICC should think about that.
“If you look at their batting line-up that is good enough to do well anywhere. We were really struggling.”
Cricket Ireland (CI) chief Warren Deutrom has repeatedly stated his desire to do all that is possible to take the country to the top echelon.
“It is unrealistic in the short term, but it is a realistic ambition,” he said. “It is something that we have aimed for by 2020. We are trying to address all of the rationale to be a full-member country. We have a strategic plan about where we are trying to go.”
Ireland have long been the stand-out country amongst the associate nations, pulling off famous 50-over wins against Pakistan and England at the past two World Cups.
The goodwill from other nations has been for Ireland to be considered for promotion as the likes of Stirling, George Dockrell and Kevin O’Brien have marked themselves as world-class talents. Despite that CI must first meet the ICC rationale for earning promotion which, as well as on-field results, requires off-field structures to be cemented.
The introduction of a professional domestic league this season has been one major step in that direction with Deutrom determined to meet the ambition of the young players who are now emerging from the Irish system.
“We must show our aspiration to these players that we want to aspire to the pinnacle of the game which is Test cricket,” he said.
“That is what players aspire to and we must replicate that and provide them with a pathway to show that is what we are trying to do.
Ireland’s next major step will be securing qualification for the 2015 World Cup with their final qualifiers against closest rivals Holland and Scotland later this summer.
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