Few sports enjoy a stat more than cricket, and there were plenty flying around Malahide last weekend. The word ‘history’ was bandied around often enough to give Ruairi Quinn apoplexy, but when all the dust settled it came down to just one important point. It’s still true that no country has won on debut in the 141 years since the first Test was played – but none has ever come as close to doing so than Ireland.

It was an extraordinary match, one that showed why the five-day format is venerated by lovers of the game above the overs versions. It survived a first-day washout to bewitch watchers as it lurched and swayed one way and the other, painting a picture as it went that encompassed all the virtues.

Ireland’s fightback was powerful to witness, two unlikely heroes taking it upon themselves to rally their side when a crushing defeat was likely. And their efforts allowed the bowlers a chance to dream as they blew away Pakistan’s top batsmen. For an hour or so there was talk of victory before the sporting fates intervened and order was restored.

So, having finally got the chance to stage this format, will Tests become a more frequent part of the Irish calendar?

Cricket Ireland CEO Warren Deutrom isn’t so sure. The ICC’s centralised fixture plan for the next four or five years, the Future Tours Programme (FTP), is out next week and he doesn’t expect Ireland will host more than one per summer in that time. “From 2018 to 2022 we expect to play 12 to 15 Tests, one-third of them at home,” he told the Sunday Independent.

Perhaps the summer Test will develop into a type of Irish Open or Horse Show for cricket fans, the week when they gather to see the best of their sport. Most of those Tests will be against Afghanistan and Zimbabwe, who are bracketed with Ireland outside the Test Championship, but not all, and there is a feast of internationals coming up with top opposition.

“We will be playing all the full members, except two, who have both said they will continue to explore opportunities,” explains Deutrom.

Unfortunately, Australia will not visit ahead of the 2019 Ashes, but Ireland can look forward to at least 65 home internationals until 2022, with multi-format tours by the Afghans and Zimbabweans.

The cost of staging at Malahide is prohibitive, however. “We decided our first Test should be staged at our biggest venue in our biggest market, but that comes at a cost,” says Deutrom. “We have no permanent infrastructure at Malahide which means we have to build from scratch. But with the FTP we can sit down and plan our home programme and work out what is best for each fixture and each venue.”

That means grounds such as Stormont, Clontarf and Bready, Co Tyrone could be in line to host a Test.

“Existing full members need to play 8-10 Tests a year to maintain their revenue streams and satisfy sponsors and their financial models. But we’re starting from zero so we can play as much or as little as the market will sustain and finances allow.”

Test cricket is struggling all over the world, only packing in the crowds in England, Australia and India as the T20 format sweeps all before it.

Malahide was sold out for the rained-off first day last week, but crowds fell away over the weekend, even when the sun shone. One surprise was how few of the Pakistani community showed up, although again there may be more interest in white-ball games, hinted at by the sell-out of 8,500 tickets for the second of the June T20s against India, a double header with Ireland women v Bangladesh.

Ed Joyce says Ireland’s players will only get better the more they play the longer game. “It’s rubbish to suggest that we could get better at white-ball cricket by concentrating on it and not playing Tests. It’s important now that we expand and push on in all formats.”

Former captain Trent Johnston, watching as a TV commentator, agrees: “Ireland have to play a lot of Tests to get better. I know it’s expensive but six or seven games a year will be needed to develop the players.”

That economic argument is hard to counter, admits Joyce – the €75,000 lost on that day one washout can be seen as lost funding for two or three coaching jobs – but he thinks three or four Tests a year would be enough.

He’s not sure how many more he will play himself, and will be meeting performance director Richard Holdsworth this week to discuss the upcoming fixtures and see how he fits in. But he hugely enjoyed that long-delayed debut as a Test cricketer and was full of admiration for his team-mates’ fightback, especially Kevin O’Brien.

“Kevin’s played the two best innings I’ve ever seen for Ireland. He’s always been seen as a hitter, but the skill level he showed was huge. He’s previously seemed more interested in one-day cricket but if he decides to focus on being a Test batsman then he certainly has what it takes.”

Joyce was also impressed by Stuart Thompson, who spent part of the winter working with former Ireland coach Adrian Birrell and looked a different player. “Stuey has always shown flashes of talent, but he was fantastic against Pakistan and can be a real Test all-rounder.”

While doubts hang over a flawed selection system – coach Graham Ford surely must have the right to pick his own team – Thompson’s rebirth as a Test all-rounder was a success. Let’s hope he, O’Brien, and the others get a lot more chances to show their five-day skills again.