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Ireland v Pakistan Test Match Preview - Shades of Green

Ireland's William Porterfield and Pakistan's Sarfraz Ahmed, Malahide Cricket Club
©Reuters
 

A historic moment awaits Irish cricket, when it plays its first ever Test match, by hosting Pakistan at The Village, Malahide, Dublin, this morning.

Ireland Vs Pakistan

Date: May 11, 2018

Time: 11:00 local time (10:00 GMT)

Venue: Only Test Malahide, Dublin

SCORECARD

The ICC verdict in 2017 had added both Ireland and Afghanistan to the Test-playing nations, currently standing at 12. Historically England had welcomed a new incumbent in the Test arena except Pakistan (1952) and the previous two entries, i.e. Zimbabwe (1992) and Bangladesh (2000), had their first Test match experience, against India.

The Irish youth, more inclined to pursue a full-time sports career in rugby or football, now have a third option in cricket, offering wider international exposure to their skills. Despite the cricket infrastructure still in a ‘semi-professional’ mode, the Dublin Test, is set to embrace more youth, both in Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Ireland has participated in ODIs since 2006 and two years down the line, joined the T20 ranks too. The present Irish Test squad, armed with considerable experience of international limited-overs cricket, one would have thought are unlikely to be fazed by the grand occasion. The memories of inflicting a shocking defeat over Pakistan at Kingston, Jamaica in the 2007 World Cup on St. Patrick’s Day, should do the trick to calm the nerves, if any.

 The present generation of Ireland cricketers have earned the Test status, through full-time commitment to the national cause. Led by Will Porterfield, their long-standing captain and the Dublin-born O’Brien brothers – Niall and Kevin, the trio brings a great deal of international and English county cricket experience to the table. A few months away from his 40th birthday, left-handed opening batsman Ed Joyce, having represented both England and Ireland in the ICC World Cup has earned his credentials with distinguished careers at Middlesex and Sussex, a Test match is a case of a dream come true, in his home town of Dublin.

Ireland-Pakistan cricketing relations date back to 1962 when the tourists, led by stand-in captain, the great Fazal Mahmood, played a 2-day match at College Park, Dublin. Ireland hosted a star-studded PIA team in 1969 and ever since then its leading clubs have happily signed on Pakistan cricketers. One such, Afzal Masood, an opening batsman of promise and a stylist, found it hard to break into the Pakistan team, primarily due to a small town tag against his name. Originating from Lyallpur (Faisalabad since 1978), Afzal would have surely stood a better chance if he were from either Karachi or Lahore. Once the frustration set in, Afzal left Pakistan and following moderate success for Northamptonshire II for two seasons, arrived in Ireland. As an accomplished batsman, easy on the eye, he represented Ireland and continued to command respect, till the very end of his career.

Saadat Gul, a batting all-rounder, from Faisalabad and a backbone of Rush CC, in Dublin since 2001, now in his 21st season as a professional in the Irish leagues, voices his opinion

‘In 1998 it was not uncommon to play a league match, with virtually no crowd at all. Things have gradually picked up and now local Irish have developed a taste for the game with a sizeable crowd participation, including families. Test status for Ireland will bring change in the infrastructure of cricket but it will be a slow process.’

 ‘The sore point for me during these 21 years has been the standard of umpiring in Ireland, which sadly has not improved a great deal. The task of umpiring, it seems has been assigned to gentlemen in their 70s and with their eyesight and hearing in decline, it has not been a great experience for the players. I hope the league organizers can have a set-up in place that brings younger men to umpire.’

Pakistan, became the seventh nation - following England, Australia, South Africa, West Indies, New Zealand & India - to be awarded Test status in 1952. The eldest amongst the famous five Mohammed brothers, Wazir, now 88, made Solihull in West Midlands his home in the early 1970s, and is one of only three survivors, besides Waqar Hasan and Khalid Ibadullah, of Pakistan’s inaugural Test tour of India in 1952-53, relives the historic moment.

‘Naturally we were very excited after next door neighbours India, invited us for our first ever Test series. Our impressive showing, against West Indies, Ceylon, Commonwealth and MCC teams, in what were termed as unofficial ‘Test’ matches, had convinced the ICC of Pakistan, worthy of playing the best in the world. I was included in the third Test match in Bombay (now Mumbai), with the series level at 1-1, and still remember how nerve-wrecking experience it was to play India’s left-arm spinner ‘Vinoo’ Mankad, in front of a full house. The overwhelming pressure to represent your country! Pakistan has come a long way since and now Ireland starts its journey which I am sure will inject new life into its cricket. I shall be following the game from my armchair.’

The Test match at Dublin, a significant event for both sides, set to further strengthen the ties between Cricket Ireland and Pakistan Cricket Board. In view of it one visualizes an Irish team returning the compliments, in the not-so-distant future, to kick start a revival of Test cricket in Pakistan, that has not hosted one, since the tragic events of terrorists attack on the touring Sri Lankan team, at Lahore in March 2009.

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