Pak­istan lined up to pose first Ir­ish Test

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - RESULTS / ROUND-UP - GER SIGGINS

IRE­LAND’S first Test match op­po­nents are al­most cer­tain to be Pak­istan, with the his­toric fix­ture set for Malahide next May. Cricket Ire­land of­fi­cials fly to New Zealand this week for an ICC board meet­ing where they will lobby for in­ter­na­tional fix­tures for the next two years.

Ac­cord­ing to a well-placed source, Cricket Ire­land hopes to use the Auck­land meet­ing to tie down the Pak­istan Cricket Board with whom it has had sev­eral months of dis­cus­sions. “The in­terim spade­work has been done,” the source said.

Pak­istan are tour­ing Eng­land early next sum­mer, with their first Test start- ing on May 24. A po­ten­tial Test match in Malahide would likely start around May 10. The Asians are pop­u­lar vis­i­tors to Ire­land, where more than 13,000 peo­ple of Pak­istani ori­gin live. An­other 2,000 re­side in North­ern Ire­land.

The Test is ex­pected to be of five-day duration, but War­ren Deu­trom last week backed moves to cut Tests to four days.

South Africa have asked per­mis­sion for a forth­com­ing four-day fix­ture with Zim­babwe to be classed as a Test, and the Cricket Ire­land CEO sees merit in the move.

“I think our an­swer might rea­son­ably be de­fined as more prag­matic and less purist than, per­haps, some of the longer-es­tab­lished Test na­tions,” Deu­trom told a cricket web­site. “After all, we can hardly com­plain about com­pro­mis­ing the traditional rhythms of Test cricket when Ire­land hasn’t played one yet. In fact, one might even ar­gue that the four-day ex­per­i­ment is more likely to suit us given our fa­mil­iar­ity with the In­tercon­ti­nen­tal Cup.

“Our chas­ing of Test sta­tus was driven by the de­sire to play the sport’s pin­na­cle for­mat, to give our play­ers the option of re­al­is­ing that dream for Ire­land rather than hav­ing to re­sort to Eng­land, not to men­tion the sheer sta­tus, op­por­tu­nity for vis­i­bil­ity and com­mer­cial po­ten­tial that comes with be­ing a recog­nised mem­ber of the front rank of cricket’s na­tions.

“If that pres­tige and those ben­e­fits can ac­crue by virtue of a four-day game rather than five then I sug­gest it is an ex­per­i­ment in which Ire­land would be happy to par­tic­i­pate.”

Ire­land beat Pak­istan at the 2007 World Cup, a re­sult that sparked the resur­gence of the sport and led to its el­e­va­tion to Test cricket last June. Since that game the sides have met eight times, with Pak­istan win­ning seven and one game, at Clon­tarf in 2013, end­ing in a tie.

Be­cause of ter­ror­ism, Pak­istan have been un­able to play at home for six years, re­sult­ing in a slump in their for­tunes. But an ex­cit­ing crop of fast bowlers and at­tack­ing bats­men has lifted them re­cently, and they were wor­thy win­ners of the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy in July.

There could even be a sec­ond tour­ing side play­ing a Test in 2017, if re­ports from Zim­babwe are true that their play­ers have been briefed about a pos­si­ble visit to Ire­land next sum­mer.

Ire­land visit the African na­tion in March for cru­cial World Cup qual­i­fiers, when new coach Gra­ham Ford will be in har­ness. Out­go­ing head coach John Bracewell is be­ing al­lowed to serve out his con­tract into De­cem­ber, re­duc­ing the pe­riod Ford will have to pre­pare his side by three months.

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