IRELANDíS hopes of a return to action received a huge boost yesterday with the England and Wales Cricket Board confirming that their three-match Test series against West Indies will take place next month.
The Test matches have been confirmed for Southampton and Manchester, starting on July 8, 16 and 24 and if all goes smoothly the three one-day internationals between England and Ireland should be the next to get the go-ahead.
The games will all be held behind closed doors in the bio-secure venues which have on-site hotels.
All the ODIs are scheduled for the Ageas Bowl, which will host the first Test match of the summer, with the opening ODI due to start on Thursday July 30, two days after the end of the final Test match at Old Trafford, Manchester. The remaining two games have been scheduled for August 1 and August 4.
West Indies agreed formally last Friday to travel to England, although at that stage the ECB was still awaiting Government approval for the series to take place. The following day, the Sports Minister duly confirmed that competitive sport could resume on June 1 and the ECB have wasted no time in confirming the return of international cricket.
As well as the Ireland ODI series, England are due to play a Test match series and T20 internationals against Pakistan in August and six white-ball games against Australia in September.
Cricket Ireland have already told the ECB they are happy to fit in with Englandís revised schedule, content to move from the original venues and dates in September and this week captain Andrew Balbirnie and other senior players and staff will be briefed by the ECB on the arrangements for the series which will also be held without spectators.
It is expected they will be told they have to arrive in Southampton up to 12 days before the first match and will not be allowed to leave the site until they return home.
To keep venues bio-secure, grounds will be split into an inner zone for players and officials and an outer zone for broadcasters, media and operational staff with no-one permitted to move between the two.