William Porterfield has said that playing Test cricket at Lord’s will be “right up there, if not the pinnacle”, of Ireland’s journey to the top table of international cricket.
While Ireland have faced England at Lord’s in a one-off ODI in 2017, their captain said on the eve of their third Test appearance that the opportunity to walk through the Long Room and down the famous steps from the Lord’s pavilion on Wednesday morning would be a “pretty special moment”.
“We have got quite a few World Cups under our belt, little things like that,” Porterfield said. “They have been pretty big occasions, but getting to Test cricket and then having the opportunity to play here at the home of cricket is a pretty special thing.
“We had a taste of it a couple of years ago with the one-dayer here, coming down through the Long Room and everything else and the things you see that other sides get to do in terms of Test cricket, so I’m sure that’s a bit of a taster of what it’s going to be like come tomorrow morning when we walk down through – should that be the first two lads out there or walking down as an eleven.”
This match will be the second men’s Test to be contested over four days following the ICC’s approval of a trial of the format in October 2017. South Africa’s victory over Zimbabwe at Port Elizabeth in 2017 is the only match since to be played under such conditions since the 1970s. Porterfield played down suggestions that the shortened match would diminish the occasion in any way.
“If you look across world cricket now, a lot of focus, a lot of crowds and everything else – probably barring England, Australia and India to a fair extent where you get crowds when those three play against each other, it’s a good initiative.
“You’re probably missing out on less than two sessions throughout the five days. You are still making up time with 98 overs. I think that the pace at which some Test matches are played at these days anyway, it might be a good thing for the game as well.”
Porterfield declared that all 14 members of his squad were in contention for a place in the starting eleven on Wednesday, although a subsequent back spasm for James McCollum may have changed that prognosis slightly. Either way, four of the squad – Mark Adair, Simi Singh, Lorcan Tucker and Craig Young – yet to make their Test debuts. While Porterfield admitted there would be some nerves for the possible debutants, he said it was perfectly fine for there to be so.
“They are young kids. They might not have played in front of 25,000 before or whatever it is. You take in different factors of the game of cricket. Once they get out there and get over the first five or ten minutes, they will get into the contest of bat and ball, but they could be lying if they don’t acknowledge there will be a few nerves knocking around.”
England will be making a quick transition between the white-ball and red-ball formats, ramping up towards the Ashes after a long World Cup campaign, but Ireland themselves haven’t had much time in whites this summer. The visitors have contested limited overs series against Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and West Indies on the international stage, while on the domestic scene their first-class competition, the Inter-Provincial Trophy, consists of only six matches a season, a number that Porterfield is keen to see increased.
“There’s a lot of county cricket, four-day, first-class experience within the side. We’ve got a lot to draw on. In an ideal scenario, we’d be at the stage back home where we’ve got 10 or 12 first-class games throughout the summer as well as various other fixtures. We’ve got to beef up our domestic programme, especially having missed out on county cricket, both white-ball and red-ball.”
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Two names in the Ireland squad who do have experience at the home of cricket are Paul Stirling and Tim Murtagh, who have plied their trade on the county scene for Middlesex.
“Having both of those lads who have played a lot of cricket is good for the lads just to go and have a chat to and sit down and talk about it if there’s anything they feel they want to focus on with regards the ground, the slope or anything really.”
Porterfield himself has a history with the venue, having been part of the MCC Young Cricketers in his formative years between 2003 and 2006, and he reflected on his time as part of the programme, admitting he’d never have thought he would be back here playing Test cricket.
“To be honest, probably not,” said Porterfield. “There are quite a few lads on the actual staff who were groundsmen at the time. It’s been slightly different catching up with everyone and being the other side of it. It’s still pretty special. We used to have to dish out the programmes in the boxes and stuff every morning, so little bits and pieces that you have to do. It’s going to be slightly different being on this side of the fence.”
It has been a fine week for Irish sport, with Shane Lowry claiming his first major golf title this past weekend at Royal Portrush. While Ireland come into this Test as clear underdogs, their captain insists they’re in it to win it.
“It’s Test match cricket for a reason – it’s tough. But it’s eleven guys against eleven guys, it’s bat against ball. You take names, reputation, everything out of it. You’ve just got to take each delivery as it comes, no matter which way it goes.”
Would it be the greatest moment in Irish sport if they were to come out victorious?
“I wouldn’t say that if we win this Test match it would be the greatest thing that’s ever been achieved in Irish sport. But as far as cricket goes, it will be.”
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