Dubai: An unlikely venue at Malahide in Dublin will witness history when Ireland play their first Test match against the visiting Pakistan team from Friday.
It has taken 18 years for a new Test playing nation to emerge after Bangladesh, who faced India in their debut Test way back in 2000.
Ireland, who along with Afghanistan were awarded Full Member status by the International Cricket Council last June, will be the first to make their debut in Tests, while come June 14, Afghanistan will play their first Test against India in Bengaluru.
Ireland has a rich tradition in the game as cricket had been played there since 1700. In the nineteenth century, several Irish clubs were formed and the first ‘national’ team took the field in 1855 in a game against a team from England in Dublin. Incidentally, the first touring team to play in Ireland was the Marylebone Cricket Club in 1858.
Pakistan will now go down in cricket history as the first nation to play a Test match against Ireland. Skipper Sarfraz Ahmad, commenting on the importance of this match. told the ICC website: “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.”
Pakistan do not expect a huge challenge from Ireland right away in the first match as Ahmad said: “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.”
Ireland, clearly the underdogs in the longer format of the game, are keen to produce a sterling performance in their very first Test. For their experienced players like captain William Porterfield, his opening partner Ed Joyce and all-rounders Paul Stirling and Kevin O’Brien, it will be an emotional moment as they had carried the mantle of Ireland’s credibility on their shoulders for years with strong performances.
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.”
Porterfield felt that it will be an emotional moment for all those who had contributed over the years to lift Ireland to Test status. “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.”
This Test match will be Ireland’s first step towards being ranked on the MRF Tyres ICC Test Team rankings. Pakistan will gain one point with a win against Ireland and reach 87 points while a draw will see them slip to 84 and a loss to 81 points. The Test ranking table is led by India with 125 points.