Dublin, May 10 (IANS) Even as Ireland prepare for a fairy tale start to their Test cricket journey at the Malahide ground here from Friday, the historic contest against a relatively young Pakistan team will give the underdog hosts a great opportunity to recreate history in their own backyard.
The European side will become the first to debut in Tests since Bangladesh did so in November 2000 against India, after being awarded Full Member status last June along with Afghanistan.
However, what could possibly be a spoilsport on this momentous occasion is the weather.
Rain is forecast for a majority of the next five days, although if it relents, the cloudy conditions could play to the pacemen’s favour.
Going into the match, No.7 ranked Pakistan expectedly start as the favourites and can boast of World No.10 Test batsman in opener Azhar Ali as the top ranked batsman.
Asad Shafiq (joint 25th) and captain Sarfraz Ahmed (32nd) are the others in the top-50 while upcoming left-hander Sami Aslam would be hoping to improve his position of 74th on the table.
Leg-spinner Yasir Shah leads Pakistan’s pack of bowlers at 16th position, while fast bowlers Mohammad Abbas (37th) and Mohammad Amir (39th) are the other prominent names in the team for Pakistan, who were top-ranked in Tests in August 2016.
As for Ireland, players like captain William Porterfield and his opening partner Ed Joyce, all-rounders Paul Stirling and Kevin O’Brien, and fast bowler Tim Murtagh would all be looking to make a fine start to their Test careers, having achieved decent rankings in the shorter formats.
In One-Day Internationals (ODI), Stirling (35th), Joyce (42nd), Kevin O’Brien (51st) and Porterfield (58th) are the leading batsmen while Murtagh (20th), off-spinner Andy McBrine (42nd), Boyd Rankin (58th) and George Dockrell (63rd) are the leading bowlers.
Joyce, who has also represented England in international cricket, is the most experienced Ireland player in first-class cricket, having played 254 matches, scoring 18,414 runs with 47 centuries.
Among the bowlers, Murtagh goes in with the considerable experience of having taken 712 wickets in 210 first class matches.
And even if somehow Ireland do manage a fairy tale win, it won’t be enough to put them on the rankings table.
Ireland will have to play eight Tests before making the grade. They do get points, though — 90 for a victory, and 40 for a draw.
As for Pakistan, a win will gain them a solitary point, and anything less will result in them losing points.
Ireland: William Porterfield (Captain), Andrew Balbirnie, Ed Joyce, Tyrone Kane, Andrew McBrine, Tim Murtagh, Kevin O’Brien, Niall O’Brien (WK), Boyd Rankin, James Shannon, Craig Young, Paul Stirling, Stuart Thompson, Gary Wilson (WK).
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (Captain/WK), Azhar Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Sami Aslam, Haris Sohail, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Saad Ali, Asad Shafiq, Usman Salahuddin, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Abbas, Hasan Ali, Rahat Ali, Faheem Ashraf.