Back in 2007 on St Patrick’s Day, Ireland caused a minor tremor in World Cricket when they defeated the might of Pakistan in the Cricket World Cup. Kingston Jamaica turned green as the small band of Irish supporters celebrated wildly. At the time Pakistan were ranked fourth in the world and although Ireland were defeated by the West Indies they qualified for the Super 8 Stage.
It was an unlikely success in the tournament that proved to be a springboard for a period of growth in Irish Cricket culminating in our recognition as a Test Playing Nation. For a country largely oblivious to the intricacies of pace bowling, off spinners and wicket keepers there all of a sudden emerged a band of cricket devotees expert in the explaining the Duckworth Lewis Method in pubs. Everyone was a secret cricketing fan.
It is appropriate this week given their place in Ireland Cricket’s history that Pakistan should be our first Test opposition, an opportunity the Pakistan team are treating as a great honour.
Of course no Irish sports team has earned its place in the nation’s heart until it gets one over on the on the old enemy, England. And in the 2011 World Cup Ireland duly defeated the England Cricket team by 3 wickets, with five balls to spare in the largest successful run chase in Cricket World Cup history. It may have only been the one day game but hey! The story of Irish Cricket has developed at a pace since then with growing awareness and popularity.
Today Cricket Ireland boasts 34 staff, annual revenue has jumped from 260,000 euro to 9.2 million and 20 players are on central contracts. Ireland has an opportunity to schedule up to 65 home internationals in the next five years however the focus will remain on one-day and Twenty20 fixtures while a new national stadium is planned for Dublin. Warren Deutrom Cricket Ireland Chief Executive says:
“Our view would be to play one or two Tests at home each year,"
Grounds for Irish Test Cricket
A ground fit for Test cricket is evident. Malahide the venue for this week’s test match has only a pavilion with temporary seating required for the expected audience. It is in itself a scenic village club on the outskirts of north Dublin.
Speaking to the BBC this week Mr Deutrom said “Test cricket is the best, it's the pinnacle format and still has the perception of the romance of the game - if we were not playing it we would not be playing the best format.”
"It was because of the allure of Test cricket that a number of Irish cricketers went to play for England, so we've removed that reason for moving.
"And it enables us to access matches, on the Future Tours programme, which we would not have had and that's the foundation of our business.
"It's very expensive but we are doing it for all these reasons and it's also a means to an end; namely to popularise cricket and try to make it a mainstream sport in Ireland."
Playing Cricket for Ireland
Ed Joyce will pad up for Ireland at the weekend. He was one of a few players that went to England to seek a career in test cricket and for the 39 year old to finally experience the test arena at the twilight of his career is a dream come true.
Joyce told RTE this week: “My first international appearance came in 1997 and I never thought I'd play a Test match for Ireland, so it's a great feeling.
Ireland become the first to debut in Tests since Bangladesh did so in November 2000 against India, after being awarded Full Member status last June along with Afghanistan.
The match will be Ireland’s first step towards being ranked on the MRF Tyres ICC Test Team Rankings while providing their players with the opportunity to make an entry into the individual rankings with strong performances against the seventh-ranked side.
The Captains Say
Ireland captain William Porterfield said: "It is a massive occasion for everyone involved in Irish cricket, something that we have built up to for a long time, since the decision was made in June 2017 to get across the line in terms of Full Membership. Everyone has been looking forward to this week, so it is a big occasion for all involved.
"For the 11 lads who will take the pitch, it will be a fantastic occasion for them and their families but we have to also remember everything that has gone before in Irish cricket in terms of getting us to this stage, over the years.
"You’ve got a lot of past players – some of them are here with us, some aren’t, but we have to remember and recognise what they have done to get us to this stage because if it wasn’t for them, and everything that they have done, we would not have been lucky enough to be taking the field, come Friday.”
Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed: “It is a privilege to be a part of this historic Test match and all of us are really looking forward to it. Ireland, who have a great tradition of cricket, are playing at home and I wish them all the best in this big moment.
“Ireland players feature prominently in the ICC ODI and T20I player rankings, and I am confident that in due course they will also make their mark in the Test rankings.”
As kit suppliers to Cricket Ireland, O’Neills wish William Porterfield and all his team every success in the Test Match starting on Friday. As we celebrate 100 years in business it is an honour to be associated with another historic day in Irish Sport.
For anyone going to the Test Match here is a useful guide from Cricket Ireland