A Historic Moment For Irish Cricket As First Ever Test Against England Awaits 

A Historic Moment For Irish Cricket As First Ever Test Against England Awaits 
13:53, 23 Jul 2019

Two years on from being awarded Test status, Ireland head to Lord’s for a historic first meeting with England that has been a decade in the making. 

William Porterfield’s side are hunting their first victory in the format, admittedly with the odds heavily stacked against them, following defeats to Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

The prospect of regular Tests at Malahide still seems a distant one, but this is an outfit who are prepared to be patient.

After all, gaining Test status in the first place was an operation that began in earnest 13 years ago and which was only realised in 2017, thanks in huge part to the work of Cricket Ireland’s chief executive Warren Deutrom. 

There would be no victory more symbolic, or which would speak of the game’s rise in Ireland, than one over an England side still riding the wave of their World Cup triumph. 

Social attitudes towards the sport are changing. Cricket will never tap into the cultural conscience in the way that GAA can, but it has the potential to return to the levels of popularity it enjoyed a century and a half ago. 

The history of cricket in Ireland has been a complex and, at times tragic, one. In the summer of 1921, as the War of Independence came to its conclusion, a spectator was shot dead at a match between the ‘Gentlemen of Ireland’ and the ‘Military of Ireland’ at Trinity College, allegedly by an IRA gunman. 

And now, almost a century on, to Lord’s. 

For England, it is not merely a token affair, but a final warm-up for the Ashes, especially for those who weren’t involved in the World Cup. 

James Anderson is facing a race against time to be fit, but it is at least looking promising for him to play a part against Australia at Edgbaston on August 1. 

The two countries’ fortunes couldn’t have been starker in recent weeks. On the same day as England’s tantalising win over New Zealand, Ireland were suffering a comprehensive eight-wicket T20 defeat to Zimbabwe - hardly in their finest moment as a cricketing nation themselves, being suspended by the ICC just days later. 

Yet the victory which England are expected to march to over four days between Wednesday and Saturday is not quite as clear-cut as it may appear. If the unthinkable were to happen, it would certainly surpass that famous record-breaking run-chase at the 2011 World Cup, Ireland’s greatest feat to date. 

At the very least, whatever happens in the coming days, they can rest safe in the knowledge that there is a bright future to which they can look ahead. 

Over the course of several years, serious time and energy has been invested across the four provinces – with Cricket Leinster deserving a special mention – into developing this current ‘Golden Generation’. 

They are determined that future Irish players do not follow in the footsteps of Eoin Morgan and switch allegiances in search of Test cricket.

Several of that generation are now in the latter parts of their careers. Porterfield is 34, Kevin O’Brien is 35, while Boyd Rankin is the same age. Rankin, incidentally, has played Test cricket before, featuring in England’s Ashes series of 2013/14. 

Yet there is life to come in the current set-up, batsmen like Andy Balbirnie and Paul Stirling continuing to impress. 

Stirling too, like team-mate Tim Murtagh, is well-used to playing at the Home of Cricket, found in the Middlesex ranks in the County Championship season.  

Porterfield stresses that his side are there to perform, not simply to enjoy the occasion – but it will be impossible - and more than that, it would not be right - for them not to indulge when his XI step out at Lord’s for the first time. 

Irish cricket has never been in a better position. 

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