Ireland’s Test cricket journey begins in Dublin against the visiting Pakistan. Nearly a year after they became Full Members of the International Cricket Council and thus eligible for red-ball cricket. This is the first time since Bangladesh in 2000 that a new team is making its debut in Test cricket. For Pakistan, this is a chance to get some red ball cricket under their belt prior to their tour of England that comes right after this match.
Although this is the first Test in the history of Irish men’s cricket, it is not the first time that long format international cricket is being played in Ireland. 18 years ago, when women’s cricket was yet to be taken over by the ICC, the Ireland women’s team had hosted Pakistan for a one-off Test, which remains the only one that has been played in the country until now.
Despite Ireland’s recent success in international cricket, the sport is yet to go mainstream in the country. “We have done things in the opposite way to the norm,” Cricket Ireland CEO Warren Deutrom is quoted as saying by Reuters in a telephonic interview from Dublin. “Normally a game becomes a major sport in their country first and they then use that to create success on an international stage. But Irish cricket has become successful on the international stage initially, punching above our weight, and we are using that to hopefully become a mainstream sport in Ireland. Will Test cricket be the format to bring people to the sport in Ireland? The answer is probably no. But we wouldn’t anticipate playing more than one or two test matches at home per year, probably up until 2022. Then we can look again thereafter. We are adopting a less-is-more approach, to develop a brand of hosting test cricket without it becoming too financially unsustainable.”
For Pakistan, the much heralded Imam-ul-Haq, nephew of former captain and batting great Inzamam-ul-Haq, will be making his Test debut in this match. He has thus far played four ODIs for Pakistan and has impressed in the two warm-up games that they have played against Kent and Northamptonshire.
Ireland had caused the first truly big flutter in world cricket when they beat Pakistan in the 2007 ICC World Cup in Jamaica. They will be hoping that they can do something similar over five days.