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Ireland cricket chief Warren Deutrom hopes Test status will halt exodus

Ireland cricket chief Warren Deutrom is hopeful their progression to a Test-playing nation will stop the country's best players defecting to England.

Both Ireland and Afghanistan were awarded full membership to the International Cricket Council (ICC) on Thursday as they met for their annual conference in London.

The two newest nations were voted in unanimously to become the first newcomers since Bangladesh in 2000 and take the number of full ICC members to 12.

Ireland have been playing as affiliate members since 1993 and have recorded famous victories over Pakistan, England and the West Indies in that time.

Now they will be able to play Test cricket against the world's best, with Afghanistan also making the step up having only achieved affiliate membership in 2013.

Deutrom believes the step will help Ireland keep hold of their top talent.

Dublin-born Eoin Morgan, England's One-Day and Twenty20 captain, turned out for Ireland in 23 ODIs before switching his allegiance and representing England from 2009.

Now though, Ireland's up and coming stars will have a chance to grace the world stage while wearing the green shirts of their homeland.

"It is no secret that Ireland chased this dream, number one because Test cricket is the best, it is the pinnacle format and that which the best players define their legacy in the game," said Cricket Ireland chief executive Deutrom.

"It is because of that, it was the reason that was stated by some of our brightest and best in recent years that they wished to play for England.

"So therefore, we realised that unless we were sharing the same dream as our best players we always had the risk of losing them.

"While I can't sit here and say definitively no Irishmen is ever going to play again for England, what I can say is at least the reason that the reason given in the past for them to leave no longer exists."

Both Deutrom and his Afghan counterpart Shafiq Stanikzai said no firm plans were in place to announce their first respective Tests, but neither ruled out the two newcomers meeting in 2018, with Deutrom hopeful of a clash with England the following year.

The step up also means funding for both nations will rise, with the pair currently receiving 20million US dollars (£15.8million) over an eight-year period from the ICC.

There are to be further discussions at the conference on Friday now that the full membership has been confirmed but an increase is almost assured and could see the figure rise to 40million US dollars (£32million).

Cricket Ireland chairman Ross McCollum said work can now begin in earnest as the country builds to its long-anticipated Test debut.

"We are sincerely grateful to the ICC and its members for giving us this honour," he said.

"It is a recognition of the quality of our teams over the years, male and female, of our talented administration, and of the strength of our domestic and club structures.

"It is also clearly a sign of the faith that the cricket community has in Ireland's ability to help grow the global cricket economy through more people attending, watching or investing in our great sport.

"We can now commence discussions with several parties about staging our first Test while we look forward to the outcome of discussions around international cricket structures which will help us unlock increased commercial funding to assist in the development of the game."

The Afghan Cricket Board posted on their own message of gratitude: "Massive thank you to everyone who has played their part in making the dream of Full Membership of ICC a reality," they wrote on Twitter.

Ireland international Gary Wilson welcomed the news by posting a statement on his own Twitter account.

"An historic day for Irish cricket," he wrote.

"Years worth of work feels like it has been recognised. There are many people in the background that have made this happen. Current officials, players and management have been major cogs but let's not forget the tireless volunteers who worked so many years to get us where we are.

"Men who played for free and managed for free. Good men no longer with us like John Wright and John Caldwell, no doubt there are others.

"As well as for us, this is for them. No doubt they would be as delighted as we are. Here's to the beginning."

Ireland's newly-appointed Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, offered his congratulations as the country will now prepare to host Test cricket for the first time.

"I am delighted that Ireland will take its place among the Test playing nations," he said.

"It's great news for the game here and a fitting result for many years of hard work and campaigning by Cricket Ireland.

"Ireland has enjoyed some notable successes at International level in the shorter versions of the game. We can now look forward to some great days ahead as Ireland takes on the top Test cricket playing nations in the world."

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