DUBLIN -  Ireland will play their first ever Test match against Pakistan on home soil next May, the country's cricket chiefs announced on Thursday.

Afghanistan and Ireland became full members of the International Cricket Council (ICC) in June, taking the number of countries who play the five-day format of the game from 10 to 12. Since then Cricket Ireland has been looking for the right opponent for the historic first match. "We are excited to welcome Pakistan to Ireland for our inaugural Test match next year," said Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom. "It has been our wish to make our Test debut in front of our own fans within 12 months of becoming a Test nation, and against a big team, so I'm delighted."

Pakistan are currently seventh in the Test rankings but were top of the pile as recently as last year. "There is a lot of work to do from now to ensure that it will be an occasion to remember but we, and I'm sure our players and fans, can't wait to rise to it," Deutrom added. Irish captain William Porterfield welcomed confirmation of the match, saying: "It's fantastic news for Irish cricket. It's going to be a bit special and it's always great to be a part of history.

"There's a special affinity between ourselves and Pakistan going back to the 2007 World Cup and they've been regular tourists here over the past decade. "Test cricket is the pinnacle of our sport and I know how much this game will mean to not only the players but all involved with Irish cricket. It'll be another step on what has been an incredible journey for our sport in a relatively short passage of time."

The exact date and venue for the match -- agreed during an ICC meeting in Auckland, New Zealand, this week -- have yet to be confirmed. Cricket has been played in Ireland for nearly 200 years but it was not until 1969 that they made the rest of the world game take true notice when they bowled out the West Indies for just 25 at Sion Mills in a televised match.

Ireland have since established themselves during the course of several World Cups, recording one-day international wins over Pakistan, the West Indies and England. Afghanistan and Ireland joined an exclusive club that also includes Australia, England, South Africa, New Zealand, the West Indies, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

 

 

 

AFP