After a drubbing at the hands of England two days previously Ireland gave a better account of themselves at Lords last Sunday
By Phil Rice
On the 22nd June Ireland’s future as a potential Test playing cricket nation will be decided by the International Cricket Council. Along with Afghanistan, Ireland’s status will be reviewed and the signs are optimistic that the result may be positive.
Ireland have been knocking on the administrative body’s door requesting to become a test playing nation for over 15 years. Their excellent performances in recent cricket World Cups has given credibility to their claims for the ultimate recognition of their status as a cricketing nation.
Ironically their performances of late have not been of the standard of previous years which included competitive victories over Pakistan, England and Bangladesh.
A number of the stalwarts of those successful teams have recently retired. In addition seven of the team who performed at the weekend are aged over 30. This is a concern as there is a small playing base of cricketers in Ireland.
The good news is that the popularity of the sport is growing in Ireland and receiving test status would only enhance the profile of the sport at home.
Wall-to-wall coverage of T20 cricket matches on Sky television has helped to catch the imagination of the Irish sports viewing public and there are more people playing the sport in Ireland than at any stage. There is no doubt that if Ireland were granted test status they would be the Cinderellas of the sport and would not be given the same recognition enjoyed by the more established countries, but we have to start somewhere and this would be a giant stride forward for the sport in Ireland.
Sunday was a memorable and historic day for Irish cricket as they played their first international at the home of the sport, Lords.
In front of 22,000 spectators of whom 5,000 were Irish, the team performed considerably better than in the first of the two match series, the previous Friday in Bristol.
Ironically it was an Irishman Eoin Morgan, captain of England, who proved to be one of the chief tormentors of the men in green as he top-scored with 76 for the home team. But it was the Irish captain William Porterfield who scored the most runs on the day, with a fine innings of 82. Unfortunately his middle-order batsmen didn’t provide the necessary support to threaten the impressive 320 scored by England.
Paul Stirling hit a brisk 48 but otherwise the English bowlers dominated and finally reduced Ireland to a brave reply of 243.
England are favourites for the forthcoming ICC Champions Trophy, due to be played in England during the first three weeks of June. Only the elite eight nations of the sport will take part. It is a measure of Ireland’s standing that they gave probably the best oneday team in the world at present a good run for their money.
This coming weekend Ireland will take part in a Tri-Nation series against New Zealand and Bangladesh on home soil, and it will be vital for the home nation to perform well leading up to the ‘future-defining’ discussions in June.
Ireland may not be as strong as they were three or four years ago but the future is bright and a favourable decision by the ICC will give the sport a huge shot in the arm and create a new horizon for the sport generally.
Here are the upcoming matches: