Cricket Ireland’s rise from an associate member of the ICC to a test playing nation is hard to put into words, it’s a journey that will finish at the home of cricket, Lords, for a test match against the old enemy in front of close to 25,000 people.
The time for talking is over, Ireland need to put in a performance over the four days to show the world they can compete at the highest level. It’s no secret that Irish Cricket has been on a steady decline over the last few years but after the introduction of fresh blood into the fold, their fortune might just be beginning to change. Typified in a maiden series win at home over a full member of the ICC after they whitewashed Zimbabwe earlier this month in Belfast.
Mark Adair looks set to cap off his fine breakthrough summer with his first Test cap as Ireland look to find the right balance in their selection between bat and ball. Andy Balbirnie has become a real linchpin in the Irish batting department and will be looking to build on his maiden test fifty against Afghanistan in March.
James McCollum has also slowly found his feet in international cricket after impressing in domestic cricket. Ireland will probably opt for Andrew McBrine as their spinning option. McBrine will offer his skipper the chance to rotate his fast bowlers in the searing heat that’s expected in London during the week. Gary Wilson will take the gloves and is in need of a big performance to repay the selectors faith in him having struggled with the bat already this summer.
Ireland’s pace attack is spearheaded by the vastly experienced Tim Murtagh, who grew up five miles from Lords in Lambeth. The veteran plays his club cricket for Middlesex and knows the ground like the back of his hand. Paul Stirling also returns to his home ground and will be looking to bring his superb white-ball form across into the red ball arena.
England will play their first match since their pulsating World Cup win over New Zealand and Ireland will look to capitalise on any hangover that could exist. England have rested World Cup heroes Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes ahead of the start of the Ashes next month.
Jason Roy is handed his red ball debut at the top of the innings as England continue to try and fix their top order woes while exciting fast bowler Olly Stone is also giving a chance to impress ahead of the Ashes. James Anderson misses out for England through injury which will worry his captain Joe Root but Sam Curran will likely take the new ball alongside Stuart Broad as Ashes places go up for grabs.
It’s hard for the everyday Irish sports fan to comprehend Eoin Morgan’s decision to play for England but ten years ago, his only chance of playing test match cricket lied with England. Now, the next Eoin Morgan growing up in Ireland, will be watching knowing there is a path to represent Ireland on the grandest stage of them all.
For a few of the Irish players, Lords will likely mark the end of their international careers as Ireland look to blood more youngsters into international cricket. They have helped Irish Cricket reach its Everest, a test match in Lords, the pinnacle of the game.
The Test Match will be shown live on Sky Sports at 10am starting Wednesday the 24th.
Seán de Husae