Ireland’s quest to join the top table of international cricket reaches another important landmark this week as they welcome near neighbours England to the new international ground at Malahide for the RSA Challenge One-Day International.
It’s been a truly remarkable 10 years for cricket on the Emerald Isle as the sport has risen to new interest and participation levels beyond what has ever been seen before. The recent narrow series defeat to Pakistan once again highlighted their progression in a relatively short period of time while qualification for the 2015 World Cup with a couple of games to spare underlines their rank as the top associate nation.
However, Tuesday’s much anticipated game is an opportunity for Irish cricket to send their biggest and clearest message yet to the cricketing powers that they’re ready to move to the next level.
While extended and regular series against full member nations and eventually Test status remains the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, showcase fixtures such as the RSA Challenge against the recent Ashes winners are the perfect opportunity to push a decision from the International Cricket Council (ICC).
The hosts will scent another famous victory given that there are only four survivors from England's last 50-over contest, the Champions Trophy final against India in June.
Much has been made about the decision to rest Ashes heroes for the trip to Dublin with an emphasis on blooding a new set of players in what is sure to be a highly competitive international fixture.
Nevertheless, a game in which Ashley Giles and the selectors test out new, hungry players promises to be a much more exciting than an encounter during which the likes of Trott, Broad and Pietersen simply go through the motions in what will be treated largely as a glorified net session.
Instead, this is a rare opportunity for the fringe players and potentially next generation of international stars to impress on the big stage with plenty riding on the game ahead of the series with Australia.
England will include two Irish-born players in their side as Eoin Morgan will captain his adopted country for the second time in Dublin while Boyd Rankin is expected to make his ODI debut.
The Warwickshire bowler has already played two Twenty20 games in the Three Lions shirt after announcing his retirement from the Irish set-up to pursue his ambition of playing Test cricket.
He was left out of both games against Australia last week, but the 6ft 8in (2.03m) Warwickshire paceman seems likely to follow Ed Joyce as an Englishman who made his debut against the country of his birth.
Ravi Bopara, Jos Buttler, James Tredwell and Morgan are the only players named in the 14-man England squad who played in the Champions League final, but their largely inexperienced and untried team-mates will all be out to impress ahead of the five-match series against Australia, which starts on Friday.
Those hoping to catch the eye include new faces Michael Carberry, Chris Jordan, Gary Ballance, Danny Briggs and 19 year-old Somerset all-rounder Jamie Overton.
Whoever takes to the field in the red apparel on Tuesday will be desperate to impress and make sure they’re not part of an English side to succumb to a second successive defeat to an ever-improving Ireland team.
With the weather forecast predicting plenty of sunshine and a capacity crowd of 10,000 in attendance, it’s sure to be a memorable occasion for all involved.
While their opponents may be under-strength, Ireland have no such worries and can call upon all their big stars including Sussex captain Ed Joyce, who will be key to the hosts’ chances of claiming another famous victory.
The 34-year-old is in the form of his life, averaging 72 in first-class cricket this season, and has scored 455 runs in seven innings for Ireland this year, including a superb century against Pakistan in the tied ODI in May.
His ability to build an innings while scoring at a high-tempo makes him a top-class batsman in all formats of the game and his value to Phil Simmons’ side cannot be underestimated. However, the left-hander is ably supported by big-hitting Middlesex batsman Paul Stirling who will be eager to enhance his growing reputation on front of the English selectors.
Apart from the die-hard and most knowledgeable cricket fans amongst the 10,000 fans packed inside Malahide on Tuesday, not many will have heard or be familiar with the uncapped Yorkshire batsman Gary Ballance.
Ballance, a hard-hitting but stylish middle-order batsman has been rewarded for an exceptional season for the White Rose county during which he’s spearheaded their Championship title challenge and scored back-to-back centuries for the England Lions against Australia and Bangladesh a few weeks ago.
The 23-year-old is expected to make his full-debut in Dublin and is certainly one to keep your eye on especially given his recent form and ability to clear the boundary with regularity and ease.
One of the key reasons for Ireland’s domination of the Associate game and success on the big stage has been the consistent and settled nature of their side. Phil Simmons has been able to formulate a winning blueprint and the side that line out on Tuesday should show just two changes from the one that famously beat England in Bangalore.
The ever-reliant and highly valuable all-rounder Alex Cusack is the only absentee for Simmons to contend with. Cusack has a back problem and is replaced in the 13-man panel by Eddie Richardson, a relatively unknown 23-year-old all-rounder who has made great strides in the domestic game this summer.
However, it’s unlikely Richardson will make his first senior appearance with Max Sorensen likely to fill the void left by Cusack but such a change weakens the batting order.
It will be also be a special day for 39-year-old former Ireland captain Trent Johnston, who plays his last game before retiring from international cricket at the end of the year.
Ireland: (Probable) William Porterfield (capt), Paul Stirling, Ed Joyce, Niall O’Brien, Gary Wilson (w/k), Kevin O’Brien, John Mooney, Trent Johnston, Max Sorensen, Tim Murtagh, George Dockrell
Much has been made about England’s decision to rest their Ashes heroes for the trip to Dublin with an emphasis on blooding a new set of players in a highly competitive international fixture.
Hampshire opener Michael Carberry is expected to be given his chance to shine at the top of the order after being left out of the Twenty20 internationals while uncapped trio Gary Ballance, Jamie Overton and Boyd Rankin should all be included.
Danny Briggs did his chances of being selected as the leading spinner with a couple of wickets against Australia no harm but Kent’s James Tredwell is likely to get the nod. Chris Jordan and Ben Stokes are the other two members of the inexperienced travelling party to miss out.
England: (Probable) Michael Carberry, Luke Wright, James Taylor, Eoin Moragn (capt), Gary Ballance, Ravi Bopara, Jos Buttler (w/k), Jamie Overton, James Tredwell, Steven Finn, Boyd Rankin
Pitch and Conditions
Having lived a nomadic life, switching between the nearby Castle Avenue and Belfast’s Stormont Ground, the Irish now have a ground they can call home. The new international venue in Malahide, situated in the North of Dublin, holds 10,000 spectators and Cricket Ireland officials have revealed a full house is expected for the first game at the venue.
Cricket Ireland’s ambition to turn the ground into a world class arena was underlined by the appointment of former Somerset CCC Groundsman Philip Frost in charge of overseeing the project to ensure the pitch matches the facilities off it.
While it’s hard to gauge how the pitch will play on Tuesday, there have been plenty of runs scored at the ground in domestic fixtures since its redevelopment was completed at the start of the summer.
Whisper it quietly, but the forecast is actually quite good for Dublin on Tuesday. The last time England were in the Irish capital their game was affected by persistent showers but there shouldn’t be any danger of weather interruptions this time around.
Sunshine is predicted throughout the day with highs of 21 degrees but given we’re into September and Autumn is approaching, it’s due to get a little cooler later in the day.
"There is always an expectation when an Irish team takes to the field that we’re going to win and we go out to win each game we play in."
“We will be playing in front of the biggest crowd ever for a cricket match in Ireland so it will be a big one. Hopefully we can do ourselves justice and put on a show.”
Ireland wicket-keeper Gary Wilson
“It's an opportunity to stake a claim. There is a World Cup in 2015 and whenever you are in front of the selectors it's a huge game.”
England all-rounder Luke Wright
Date: Tuesday 3rd September, 10.30am BST
Venue: Malahide Cricket Ground, Dublin
Umpires: Ruchira Palliyaguru and Mark Hawthorne (3rd: Richard Smith)