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Irish to seal Test status and cash boost in 2019

 

By Ian Callender

Ireland remain on course to play their first Test match by 2019 after a week of successful ICC meetings in Dubai.

That was the upbeat assessment of Cricket Ireland chairman Ross McCollum, himself an ICC board director, with Full Membership - which has been exclusive to the 10 Test nations until now - and a financial windfall for Ireland set to be confirmed at June's annual general meeting.

"The process is that we can now officially apply for Full Membership. There is a specific criteria - but we will meet it," said McCollum.

"That will be done in the next week for approval at the committee stage and will be ratified by the Full Council in June. The week couldn't have gone any better.

"You can be a Full Member without having to play Test cricket but we want to play Test cricket and again that will be confirmed at the June meeting. We are only looking at three to four Tests a year to start with and I can't see them not standing over that one."

Test status is actually in limbo at the moment as there is a scheduling issue among the 10 members - "there are just too many fixtures" - but McCollum believes that will be resolved before the June meeting.

The ICC Chief Exexcutive's Committee has also yet to sign off the new structures for one-day internationals and Twenty20 cricket but here too McCollum is confident it will be sorted out in the next two months.

"That's 99.9 per cent nailed on and the Full Members are just trying to fit everything in. They will be put under serious pressure to have all that signed off by June," he added.

"The bottom line is that there is a pathway to Full Membership so the glass ceiling has been broken. Indeed, in T20 cricket the pathway will go from No 105 (the lowest ranked Associate nation) to the No 1. It covers all the membership and gives them a pathway to be successful if they want to be and that has never happened before. The Council just won't vote against that."

So when can Ireland expect to play their first Test match and against whom?

"I'd be very hopeful that we will play Afghanistan (also expected to be given Full Membership) in a Test match, possibly 2018, probably 2019," said McCollum.

"After that if someone is coming in to play a Test series in England we will invite them to come and play a one-off Test in Ireland. And on the back of that you may also get ODIs and T20s."

As for the money coming Cricket Ireland's way to fund their Test ambitions, a new financial model was agreed at the board meeting.

"It's not as much as we were going to get in the original model but it is substantially more than we are getting now. It hasn't been signed off so I can't quote any figures but I would be hopeful that it would be at least double what we are getting now," said the CI chairman.

Meanwhile, new sponsorship money was also announced by Cricket Ireland yesterday to complete their memorable week, with Turkish Airlines unveiled as the headline sponsor of the senior men's team at a ceremony in Dublin yesterday.

Initially for one year, there is the option of extending the agreement for a further two years.

On the field, there was also good news a week before Ireland meet England at Bristol in the first of two ODIs.

Paul Stirling scored 71 from 60 balls for Middlesex in their Royal London Cup match against Sussex and Ireland captain William Porterfield hit 63 not out from 73 balls in Warwickshire's 10 wickets victory over Northamptonshire.

Stirling had scored 64 from 57 balls for the 2nd XI on his return to action, after injury, on Tuesday and was immediately promoted to the county side where he confirmed his fitness and form, hitting nine fours and a six.

Belfast Telegraph

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