Boyd Rankin believes the International Cricket Council should consider a Combined Associate XI becoming the 11th Test team.

The Ireland and Warwickshire pace man suggested it could be the way forward and would give greater exposure to the best of the talent just below Test level.

Rankin was speaking in Dubai on the eve of England's first tour game - ahead of their three Test series in the UAE against Pakistan, which starts on January 17 - coincidently against a Combined Associate XI, captained by William Porterfield and also including Ireland team-mates Paul Stirling, George Dockrell and Rankin.

Rankin said: "In terms of performance it can show ICC there is room for an Associate team playing Test cricket. It will give guys in the different countries something to aim for. A Combined ICC team is more than capable of playing against the best sides in the world."

The game will also put Rankin and his fellow Associate players in the full glare of the England management and selectors as they pursue their ambition of playing at the highest level.

Rankin has already made clear his wish to play Test cricket and, for the moment, England is his only hope of achieving that goal.

"I've been working quite hard for the last few months, training with the England Lions. Hopefully If I can put in a good performance it will show the coaches and captain what I can do. There are a lot of fast bowlers ahead of me but people can get injured so you never know," said the 27 year old.

"I head off to Bangladesh straight after this match to join up with the Lions so it is a big month for me. I was in South Africa before Christmas, working on a few new skills so hopefully I can put them to good use, put the performances in and give me the chance of a call-up."

Dockrell, eight years his junior but already a county professional with Somerset, is also relishing the chance to impress on the big stage.

"You want to test yourself against the best in the world and that's where England are at the moment. To play them in the longer format is an even bigger test. They are such a strong team in every suit and it will be a great challenge," said the Dubliner.

"It won't be a new experience, having played against them for Ireland and in county cricket so it should be an advantage knowing the ins and outs of their games. Hopefully I can get among the wickets, get a few big names and get a few overs under my belt."

In all there are five countries represented in the Associates team Scotland, Afghanistan, Namibia and UAE are the others. Tim Bresnan is the only England injury doubt ahead of the game which starts tomorrow at 6am GMT.

For captain Porterfield, it has been a case of discussing tactics and trying to pool a disparate group of individuals into a team that can do themselves justice while giving England a stern opening examination.

"It's a pretty big occasion, really looking forward to it. Everybody speaks pretty good English, apart from myself probably," joked the boy from Donemana. "But, despite the different nationalities, there is no language barrier, we have gelled well together so far in practice, it's exciting times and great the ICC have set it up.

"It's a great honour for myself to captain the team. I am well used to captaincy and it's something I've enjoyed doing, but this is pretty special."