Ireland ready to take its place in Test cricket history

Pakistan will provide the opposition for historic sporting occasion

Test match: Ireland v Pakistan, Malahide, 11.0am – Live Sky Sports Cricket

Truly historic sporting occasions don’t come around too often but today, for 11 men wearing white sweaters embossed with shamrocks, what unfolds at Malahide will be truly momentous.

Ireland become just the 11th nation to play Test cricket in its 141-year history when they take on Pakistan, and the first newcomer since Bangladesh in 2000.

The elevation has come after tireless work from so many in Irish cricket both on and off the field and many of the ex players will be honoured at the ground on Sunday.


It’s fitting also that Pakistan provide the opposition, the country having helped Ireland fill out a sparse calendar of top-class fixtures in recent years.

The large Pakistani Irish will also play their part, while five days of live coverage to a global audience and nightly highlights on RTÉ will guarantee the kind of exposure that the sport here has only witnessed at World Cups.

All that is needed now is for the weather to play ball, although the signs are that the players and over 6,000 supporters will have to endure the on and off nature of an early summer day in Ireland.

Both sides are somewhat undercooked going into the game, Ireland probable more so, with Pakistan having played two four-day games against English counties, culminating in a good nine-wicket win over Northamptonshire in which teenage leg-spinner Shadab Khan took 10 wickets.

That form should be enough to earn Shadab a place in the Pakistan XI, even though the Malahide wicket looks set to be a green-top that will suit swing bowling. Of course, Pakistan have plenty of those also, with the left-arm duo of Mohammad Amir and Rahat Ali bound to cause trouble to an experienced Ireland batting line-up that includes Ed Joyce, who may well be making one of his final Ireland appearances at the age of 39.

Addressing the Ireland selection in Thursday's pre-game press conference, skipper William Porterfield seemed to point to an all-seam Irish attack, a decision that could see Merrion's Tyrone Kane or Craig Young – the latter called up on Wednesday night after an injury to the uncapped Nathan Smith – earn a Test cap.

Test cricket’s toughness is best shown in how long on average it has taken for a country to win its first. Take out Australia and England, who shared the initial series in 1877, and the average is nine and a half years. Winning what looks a vital toss would be a great start. From there on the rest is history.


What's the big deal with Test cricket?
Although Ireland have been playing international cricket since 1855,  it has taken a long time to make the final step up to Test status. Ireland and Afghanistan were named as the 10th and 11th Test nations last summer.

How hard is it to win a Test  match?
Well cricket is full of stats, so here's one for you. If you take out Australia and England, who shared the first series in 1877  (it wasn't even called the Ashes  back then) it has taken the other eight teams an average of  nine and a half years to win their first Test. New Zealand took 26 years and 46 Test matches before they broke their duck by beating the West Indies in 1956. So you'll need to be patient.

It's not going to take us that long, sure we've beaten Pakistan before?
We did, but that was in the 50-over World Cup in 2007, this is a different ball game altogether. There are no restrictions on bowlers or field positions, with so many more factors coming in to play, including the vagaries of the weather and changes in pitch conditions.

If I want to go along to Malahide, can  I just rock up and buy a ticket?
Over 6,000 of the 6,500 seats for Friday's first day had been sold as of 6pm on Thursday night, with Cricket Ireland saying that if there are any tickets left on Friday morning they will be on sale through Ticketmaster, who will have  a ticket van at the venue.

How do I get to the ground?
Malahide Cricket Club is located on the Dublin Road. Most people travel by Dart; just turn right out of the station and it's a five-minute walk. The 42 and 102 buses also stop at Malahide, while the Enterprise train  from Belfast will stop at Malahide at 9.55am and depart after the day's play at 7.20pm.

I heard the weather wasn't great for Friday. What should I bring?
Met Éireann are forecasting for a cold, showery day on Friday so pack an umbrella and get the layers on.   There is a cricket village for refreshments, while their will be plenty of cricket-related entertainment for young and old alike.

Emmet Riordan

Emmet Riordan

Emmet Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist