Ireland’s Test Cricket Entry: This Day, That Year

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The ‘Test Cricket’ Status:

Test Cricket is inarguably cricket’s most coveted format. Being a Test playing nation is a dream to every country that plays this sport. Over the years only 12 teams have attained Test status, the latest being Afghanistan and Ireland. While cricket in Afghanistan can be traced back to the recent past, Ireland has been playing cricket traditionally for ages. Ireland has played cricket since the 18th century and has developed immensely in the past few years. Their limited overs form and emergence of many match-winners slated into them being one of the most successful associate members. Ireland made their Test Cricket debut, this day that year, marking the start of their journey in elite cricket.

“Would be huge news in world cricket, and it would be a massive positive story for the world game.” -Jason Gillespie on Ireland’s Test status

 

Ireland was elected to ICC’s Associate Membership in 1993. Since then, the team has featured in 150 ODIs and almost a 100 T20Is. Their win percentage in both these formats remains respectable. However, Irish cricket shot to fame in 2007 and 2011 World Cup with upset wins against Pakistan and England respectively. They also went on to beat the likes of Zimbabwe and West Indies in the consequent 2015 World Cup. Though the country has also hosted a few full member cricketing nations, the series has mostly been a part of preparation for the English summer. In 2018 when Ireland were avoided ‘Test Status’, the touring Pakistan team agreed to play a one-off Test at Dublin. That is where it all began.

Ireland's Test cricket debut
Courtesy: Circle of Cricket

Ireland vs Pakistan: First Innings

William Porterfield, one of Ireland’s longest serving veterans, took the field captaining the home team. Electing to field first in swinging conditions the Irish were quick to make inroads in the Pakistan batting lineup. The experienced Pakistan batting though stuck in and proved their resilience putting up a fighting 310 in the first innings. While Faheem Ashraf led charge with the bat, it were Mohammad Abbas and Shadab Khan with the ball. The duo took 7 wickets between them, restricting the Irishmen to only 130. The 180 run-lead enabled Pakistan to enforce a follow-on, a phenomenon largely unknown to Pakistan cricket for almost 16 years. 

Ireland vs Pakistan: Second Innings

Kevin O'Brien celebrating his maiden ton in Test Cricket
Courtesy: Cricket Country

Every dark cloud ought to have a silver lining. Ireland’s second innings was a mix of good and bad fortunes. While a few players including the captain, failed to capitalise on starts, their favorite cricketing son Kevin O’Brien went on to register his country’s first ever international Test ton. The middle-order batsman scored a massive 118 with shots all around the ground. He showed great control and patience throughout and took Ireland to a respectable total of 339. His knock included 12 boundaries and a few phases of technically sound defences. O’Brien was ably supported by Stuart Thompson (53), the duo adding 124 for the 7th wicket. The joy and confidence amidst the Irish supporters had brought back momentum to the hosts. 

Imam-Ul-Haq led Pakistan's revival in 2nd innings spoiling Ireland's Test cricket debut
Courtesy: CricketAddictor

Coming in to defend a modest 160 on the fifth morning, Tim Murtagh struck early and reduced Pakistan to a mere 14/3. A team’s character is judged by their performance under pressure and Pakistan’s long standing love for cricket was too feeble to be broken. The opener, Imam-ul-Haq led charge with a match-winning 74* handling Ireland their first Test defeat. Despite the loss, the country had all to gain from the Test. Test Cricket has opened up a new chapter in the country’s cricketing journey and it is only about time that they prosper. 

Ireland also went on to play neighbours England in the following year giving the world one of it’s fondest memories. The encounter too resulted in an Ireland’s loss but gave the world a glimpse of Ireland’s potential. 

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