Dates of historic Ireland vs England test finalised
The most recent nation to earn themselves Full Test Playing Nation will suit up for a huge challenge in July of 2019. Ireland, who played their first ever Test match against Pakistan in May of this year, will get another chance to test their ability to compete against the best teams in the world when they face England at the home of cricket, Lords, from July 24-27. The game will precede the Ashes series, which will run during August and September.
Ireland’s first test match, as expected, resulted in a loss, but they certainly demonstrated an ability to compete after a slow start. After winning the toss and electing to field, the Irish reduced Pakistan to a respectable 310/9. Their first batting display, however, saw them quickly fall to 4/7 before eventually being bowled out for 130. They fought back after being forced to follow on though, putting up 339 in their second innings on the back of an impressive century by Kevin O’Brien. Pakistan, chasing 160, looked in a little trouble at 3/14 but eventually managed to win by five wickets.
That match confirmed to many that Ireland are more than capable of being competitive against highly ranked teams, and more games against such teams will no doubt result in improvement. England are a tougher challenge than Pakistan, particularly on their home turf, and Ireland will likely find it difficult to handle the swinging ball always present in England.
As was the case in the Pakistan test though, the outcome is secondary to the fact that they have the opportunity to play the test at all. Ireland may not see it that way, and will no doubt be fully intending to challenge the English, but in reality they have little chance of earning themselves a victory.
They will, however, gain more valuable experience playing at the highest level, something which will benefit them in years to come. It won’t be their only such opportunity either, with the ICC’s International cricket schedule for the years of 2018-2023, released in June, flagging 13 one-off Test matches for Ireland over the course of the next five years.
Clearly, these matches hold significantly more importance for Ireland than for the opposition in the game. For the most part, the more established teams will generally be winning these matchups fairly comfortably, something which isn’t necessarily beneficial for those teams’ preparation for other test series.
What is important, however, is that these teams still treat the matches with the respect they deserve. England, for example, who will be starting an Ashes series within a week of this test against Ireland finishing, will undoubtedly have much of their focus on the series which they view as the most important in their cricketing schedule.
As a result, it would be understandable if some players weren’t exactly eager to participate, preferring to spend their last few days of Ashes preparation doing something else. For the sake of Ireland’s improvement, however, it’s vital that they get to play against the best of the best. Playing against watered down versions of high quality teams won’t do nearly as much as them as playing against full strength squads, and as a result England have somewhat of an obligation to field a team which largely resembles the team they will field in the Ashes.
Assuming they do this, they should win without breaking sweat. As the old adage goes, however, you learn more from your losses than you do from your wins, and Ireland will learn plenty from games like these.