DUBLIN: William Porterfield will captain Ireland in their inaugural Test proud of the years of campaigning that have led to Friday’s match against Pakistan in Dublin.
Ireland, who famously knocked Pakistan out of the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, will become the 11th men’s Test nation when the coin is tossed at the Malahide ground.
For Porterfield and his 10 team-mates it promises to be an especially memorable occasion, but he was quick to pay tribute on Thursday to all those who had helped make Ireland’s Test debut a reality.
“There has been a lot of banging the drum,” Porterfield told reporters. “It’s going to be a pretty special occasion for the 11 that are lucky enough to take the park today [Friday].
“Every one that’s ever worn the jersey and done things behind the scenes and devoted their lives to it deserve a lot of credit for what’s going to happen today.”
The opening batsman added: “We’re obviously pretty excited. It’s been quite a while building up to this since it was announced.
“I am sure there will be a lot of different emotions that will flow through everyone over the next 24 hours, but excitement is the main one.”
Although both Ireland and Afghanistan were granted Test status by the International Cricket Council last year, neither of the newcomers can expect to be involved in full-length Test series anytime soon.
But one-off games, as was the case with Sri Lanka at the start of their introduction to Test cricket, could yet be the best way to ease them into the five-day format.
“It is going to be very hard to organise three or five-game series with the cost that is involved in organising them,” said Porterfield, who played English county cricket for both Gloucestershire and Warwickshire.
“It would be great if we could play quite a few Tests a year, but it is not financially viable as it stands,” the 33-year-old added. “That is what it is.”
Ireland now have a first-class structure involving three teams — Leinster, North and North West and Porterfield said establishing a solid foundation at domestic level was central to Irish cricket’s long-term development.
“I think the biggest thing for us is that we need to make our first-class structure — we had a very good game last week — we need to make that sustainable and better and get the volume of fixtures into that and the Wolves system, which is essentially our A team.”
Meanwhile, Imam-ul-Haq is set to make his Test debut after Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed told reporters on Thursday that the tourists would field the same side as played in their preceding nine-wicket win at Northamptonshire.
That would mean opener Imam, the nephew of chief selector and ex-Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq, making his debut instead of Sami Aslam, who opened during Pakistan’s drawn Test series in England two years ago.
Imam’s selection in the squad provoked allegations of nepotism.
But the 22-year-old left-hander, who hit a hundred on his One-day International debut against Sri Lanka last year, has made fifties against both Kent and Northamptonshire in Pakistan’s two warm-up matches ahead of this one-off Test.
Sami, by contrast, made 13 against Kent and did not play against Northamptonshire.
“We have already decided, we will play the same team that played against Northamptonshire,” said Sarfraz. “We played our first match against Kent and they [Imam and Sami] both played together so we saw who was playing well.
“Recently we saw that Imam was playing better: he scored two fifties in the practice matches [61 against Kent and an unbeaten 59 against Northamptonshire] so that’s why we go with Imam.”
Pakistan are without the injured Yasir Shah for a tour where, after their match against Ireland, they will also play two Tests in England. But they appear to have an able replacement in fellow leg-spinner Shadab Khan, with the 19-year-old taking a first-class career-best 10 for 157 against Northamptonshire.
“Definitely Yasir Shah is a very experienced bowler and we miss him a lot but the good thing is Shadab Khan bowled really well in the last tour match,” said Sarfraz. “He got 10 wickets against Northamptonshire, so hopefully Shadab will bowl well in the Test matches as well.”
Pakistan’s drawn four-day tour opener against Kent in Canterbury saw two whole days washed out, but conditions in Northampton allowed them to complete a morale-boosting win.
“Two days [in Ireland] were very cold but today it is sunny,” said Sarfraz of the Irish weather. “The last practice match was very good — everything was complete, batsmen batted well, bowlers bowled well, so we are ready to play a Test match.”
Ireland (probable): William Porterfield, Paul Stirling, Ed Joyce, Niall O’Brien, Andy Balbirnie, Gary Wilson, Kevin O’Brien, Stuart Thompson, Andy McBrine, Boyd Rankin, Tim Murtagh.
Pakistan: Azhar Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed (captain), Shadab Khan, Fahim Ashraf, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Abbas, Rahat Ali.
Umpires: Ian Gould (England) and Richard Illingworth (England).
TV umpire: Mark Hawthorne (Ireland).
Match referee: Chris Broad (England).
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The 2018 Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference is scheduled for April 8 to 11 in Boao, Hainan Province. The forum will be themed "An Open and Innovative Asia for a World of Greater Prosperity."
— The Daily Mail - People's Daily