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Ireland captain William Porterfield in tribute to stars who led way to Test stage



Batter up: William Porterfield is sure Ireland can win their Test debut

Batter up: William Porterfield is sure Ireland can win their Test debut

©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Batter up: William Porterfield is sure Ireland can win their Test debut

Today is a pinch-me moment for everyone connected with Irish cricket as Ireland becomes the 11th Test nation, the first to play a debut Test since 2000.

But proud captain William Porterfield was determined not to forget about the 690 Ireland players who have missed out.

"It is going to be a pretty special occasion for the XI walking onto the park," he said. "But it would be remiss if we didn't talk about everything that has gone before us.

"Not only over the last five or 10 years, which everyone remembers most, but every cricketer who has ever played for Ireland.

"On and off the pitch, administrators and a lot of people have devoted a lot of their lives to make this happen. We're just the ones lucky enough at the time of our careers to take the pitch to play that first Test match."

Pakistan are the opposition, Malahide is the venue and more than 5,000 people have already paid up to witness history in the making.

It was a victory over Pakistan at the 2007 World Cup which put Ireland on the world stage, but even then no-one, not even forward-thinking Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom, had Test match status on their radar and certainly within 11 years.

Indeed, when Deutrom announced Ireland's Test aspirations in 2012, the target was to achieve it by 2020. Porterfield admitted it has been an amazingly quick journey.

"In my career personally, we have gone from not having ODI status to having ODI status and everything else, now we'll be going out there and playing the first Test match for Ireland," said the skipper.

One player who will have to wait for a Test debut is Nathan Smith. The Instonians all-rounder sustained a side strain in the Premier League game against North Down on Saturday which, devastatingly, has forced him out of the squad.

"You've got to feel for the lad. He's probably gone from the best moment in his career to the worst in the space of 48 hours," said Porterfield.

In Smith's absence, Tyrone Kane seems certain to play his first red-ball match for Ireland while Porterfield also admitted, having seen the green pitch, he was erring towards an all-seam attack which would see Andy McBrine miss out and his North West Warriors team-mate Stuart Thompson come in as a bowling all-rounder.

The other possibility is Smith's replacement, Craig Young - one of six Warriors in the 14-man squad - being propelled into the starting line-up but, as he was considered not to have sufficient "control or discipline" to be included in the original selection, that would be a huge about-turn.

Captain Porterfield was typically upbeat about Ireland's chances of becoming the first team in 141 years to win their inaugural Test.

"It is a bit stereotypical, but if we get a bit of sideways movement it is the main aspect we want to bring to the table. If we can have that in the game then I think it gives us the best chance of winning and I think that is a realistic chance," he said.

"Pakistan are a pretty battle-hardened side, they have a lot of guys in the squad who are potentially making their debut so there will be a lot of nerves knocking around with them. But hopefully it's not going to be too warm, it might be at best in double figures. So, all those little factors only add to giving us a better chance of winning this game.

"Are we favourites? No. But we've as much chance as anyone if we do the basics right. There is a lot of experience in our line-up, exciting youth as well, so I don't see any reason why (we can't win)."

Most observers would be happy for Ireland to compete, to take the match into a fourth day - although the weather, if the forecast is to be believed, will probably ensure that - but to do that, it will need the majority of the side to be at the top of their game. But no one denies Ireland have experience in their ranks.

The likely starting XI have played 1,103 first-class games, which is 304 more than the Pakistan line-up, although they do boost 226 more Test caps. However, none of the visitors can match Ed Joyce, Tim Murtagh (both over 200) or Niall O'Brien's 172 first-class appearances and if that trio come to the party then Ireland have nothing to fear.

In Boyd Rankin they have a strike bowler good enough to play for England and, while it is seven years since he scored his last hundred for Ireland, Kevin O'Brien has a worldwide reputation after his batting exploits in the World Cup.

It's a day they thought would never come, but they all deserve their place on the biggest stage.

Belfast Telegraph