Reciprocal Test on cards for Ireland in Pakistan?
Nick Royle (TImes Ireland)
Ireland will host ICC Champions Trophy holders Pakistan in their inaugural men's Test match in May 2018.
The two countries reached an agreement to play a five-day Test in Ireland following a meeting between Cricket Ireland [CI] chief executive Warren Deutrom and his Pakistan Cricket Board counterpart Subhan Ahmed during a meeting of the International Cricket Council in Auckland this week.
Ireland and Afghanistan were promoted to Test and Full Member status in June, and Cricket Ireland were keen to make their first Test match “a celebration against one of the major nations.”
“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,” Deutrom said.
Cricket Ireland hope to stage the game at Malahide Cricket Club during the second week of May, before Pakistan travel to England for a two-Test series against Joe Root's side, which begins at Lord's on 24 May.
Cricket Ireland believe that they can attract a crowd of 5,000 supporters for each of the first three days of the Test, and will vigorously market the game to the Pakistani community in Ireland and the United Kingdom.
“We will do everything we can to bring the public out to celebrate our first Test match,” CI high-performance director Richard Holdsworth said.
“We got almost 10,000 people in to Malahide for the ODI against England in 2013. Wouldn't it be great to do the same again? We are certainly aiming high, to make it a memorable occasion for the sport.”
Pakistan have visited Ireland on three previous occasions, winning all three one-day international series in 2011, 2013 and 2016, while Ireland women also played a Test match against Pakistan in July 2000.
Cricket Ireland have also previously expressed interest in playing a ODI series in Pakistan, but have been prevented from fulfilling the fixture because of security concerns.
Pakistan have not played a major Test team on home soil for the last eight years following the 2009 terrorist attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore, and now usually host matches in the United Arab Emirates.
The Zimbabwe team, protected by a presidential-style security operation, did play five matches in Pakistan in May 2015, but Afghanistan's 2016 tour was cancelled following a bombing in Lahore that killed 70 people.
However, Pakistan played a World XI in a three-match T20 series in Lahore in September, and will host Sri Lanka and the West Indies in a T20 series in the Punjab city in November.
And Holdsworth says Ireland are keen to play a return Test match in Pakistan, as long as the security situation in the country remains stable.
“No doubt there will be discussions now that international cricket has been played in Pakistan, and we will hope to try and play our part, if we can,” he said.