Australia vice-captain Brad Haddin has given Ireland the go-ahead to push for Test match status after their performance in the four-day first-class game against Australia A at Stormont last weekend.
Although the Aussies, in the end, registered a comfortable 93 runs victory, the vastly under-strength Ireland team, missing six county professionals, kept their visitors, including five members of the Ashes squad that will take on England this summer, in the field for 65 overs, much to the delight of the Australia A skipper.
"We're very pleased how the game went, especially after the frustration of the rain on the first three days," said Haddin.
"We wanted to be playing on the last day under pressure and that was good for both teams.
"There was an opportunity for both teams to win the game We had to bowl well to defend that total (300) and if the Ireland team batted well it was going to be a very exciting day, so the most pleasing thing is that we were playing for a result and that's the way you get better as cricketers.
"These are the type of games that are important for Ireland, playing against decent opposition, and they have proved they can perform well in the longer form of the game.
"We know what they can do in the ICC events, with their victories against England and Pakistan, and their performance over the last four days can only help their aspirations for Test status.
Asked about the exciting century by Paul Stirling on the third day, Haddin said it wasn't a shock.
"We have seen quite a bit of him for Ireland and Middlesex on the television and he has got some very good hundreds against good international teams.
"The one thing about the Ireland team is that they play well together, understand what they are trying to do and Ireland did that very well in this game."
Looking ahead to the Ashes series, Haddin singled out opening bowler Peter Siddle for a special mention.
"I thought Siddle was first class. He got into a Test match groove but all the guys did a job and bowled in partnerships where we needed to, and the spinners got the work they deserved.
"It's a huge summer. I've been very impressed by the way the 'A' squad have gone about their work in the last four weeks and we have an opportunity to finish the tour on a high against Gloucestershire, starting on Friday.
"The guys have got better and better the longer the tour has gone on and that's the most pleasing thing."
The senior squad's next action will be the First Ashes Test at Trent Bridge on July 10 after the one-day side took their bow on Monday from the Champions Trophy – the competition for the top eight countries in world cricket – another world event which Ireland would love to be involved in. The first semi final takes place today between England and South Africa at The Oval with India facing Sri Lanka at Cardiff tomorrow.
Meanwhile, pace man Pat Cummins an unused member of the Australia A squad against both Scotland and Ireland, and not fit enough to be selected for the Ashes tour, will be playing two games in Northern Ireland this week.
Cummins, who announced his arrival on the international scene in last year's ODI against Ireland at Stormont, as first change to Brett Lee and Ben Hilfenhaus – he took the wicket of Paul Stirling – will today play for the Northern Ireland Academy team against the MCC at Carrickfergus and on Friday FOR MCC in the final match of their annual tour against the Ireland under-19 team at Muckamore.
Cricket Development officer Tim Simmonite explained how it came about.
"Richard Holdsworth, the Cricket Ireland Performance Director, got in touch with us in Belfast having been approached by Cricket Australia hoping to get a game for Cummins as he continues his rehabilitation," said Simmonite.
"He has not played since October after suffering a stress fracture in his back, and they were keen for him to get some match action.
"They asked about him playing in club cricket, at first, but because of the registration rules that was out of the question.
"He couldn't play for the under 19s as we need to see as many of our players as possible ahead of the World Cup qualifying tournament in Holland this summer – although he has just turned 20 years of age – but after a phone call to Lord's he was given special dispensation to play for MCC and that suits everyone."
Both games, at Carrickfergus today and Muckamore on Friday, start at 11am.