Ireland’s moment in the sun comes just as it is setting on Test cricket

first_img Support The Guardian Share on Pinterest What county cricket can expect from ‘big dog’ Virat Kohli’s arrival It is funny to think these great men had the same daydreams as the rest of us. Joyce and Beckett are two famous members of the small band of Irish Test match fans. In the 20th century this was a fruitless pursuit. For the past 140 years the only way an Irishman would play Test cricket was if he got picked for England. Leland Hone was the first to do it, in 1879. Hone, who kept wicket in the third-ever Test, was the first of seven Irishmen to play Tests for England. But there were many more, boys and men, who would have played for Ireland if they had had the chance.Men like Tom Ross, who took nine for 28 against South Africa, and Dougie Goodwin, who took five for six against West Indies in that famous game at Sion Mills in 1969. Men like Scott Huey, who topped Wisden’s first-class averages in 1954. In those days a bowler needed to take 10 wickets to qualify for Wisden’s list. Huey played only one first-class game all summer, against MCC, but he took 14 for 97. Men like Jimmy Boucher, who took 168 wickets in first-class cricket, at 14 each, seven of them for 13 runs against New Zealand.The inaugural Irish Test XI took to the field for the first time at Malahide last Saturday, at least a hundred years later than they might have done. “Tomorrow 11 of us will represent the 688 who have gone before us,” wrote Andy Balbirnie. “Thank you for paving the way for us to fulfil our dreams.”Malahide came as a sweet relief for an Englishman, upwind from Colin Graves’ Ratner-esque blather and the ECB’s steaming pile of “fresh tactical dimensions”. Graves, 70, was at it again on Monday, pontificating on the BBC about what the “younger generation” want. There was never a better reason to switch over to Guerilla Cricket, where it was broadcasting Kevin O’Brien’s fine innings, the first Test hundred for Ireland. It almost set up an improbable victory but in the end Ireland lost by five wickets. Which means Australia are still the only team to win their first Test.Except even in Ireland, where Test cricket was only just born, there was a whiff of something terminal about it. Over the weekend Brendon McCullum, the former New Zealand captain who did as much for the format as any other modern player, said in an interview: “I firmly believe Test cricket won’t be around in time, because there’s only so many teams that can afford to play it.”Ireland are not one of them. One could hear it in the words of their captain, William Porterfield, and chief executive, Warren Deutrom. “For most countries,” the latter said, “Test cricket, apart from England-Australia, which is the obvious exception, is a loss-leader.”Ireland are due to play only 16 Tests in the next five years. “It is going to be very hard to organise three- or five-game series with the cost that is involved. It would be great if we could play quite a few Tests a year but it is not financially viable as it stands,” Porterfield added. “That is what it is.” Read more Reuse this content Cricket Since you’re here… Share on LinkedIn Share on Twitter Imam-ul-Haq helps Pakistan dash Irish hopes of unlikely win in maiden Test Ireland Cricket Team Sportblog Read more Share on Messenger Share on WhatsApp North Richmond Street, being blind, is a quiet street. There is nothing there to tell you what went on at No 17, the red-brick terrace house where James Joyce lived as a kid. Round the back there is a courtyard garden, where Joyce spent happy hours batting against his brother John. “I remember having to bowl for him for perhaps an hour at a time,” John wrote. “I did so out of pure goodness of heart since, for my part, I loathed the silly, tedious, inconclusive game.” James was a “useful bat” and “eagerly studied the feats of Ranji and Fry, Trumper and Spofforth”. Years later he threaded the four of them into the text of Finnegans Wake.It was the week for old stories about Irish cricketers. There is another about Samuel Beckett, half-true, about how, when he lived in Ussy-sur-Marne, he would drive the neighbour’s boy to school in his convertible. The kid was so big he could not fit in the bus seats. When he grew up they called him André the Giant. “I asked André what he and the famous author talked about when they were together,” wrote Cary Elwes. “‘Mostly cricket,’ André recalled.” Beckett opened the batting and bowling for Trinity College. He had a first-class batting average of 8.75 and, like Joyce, he never lost his taste for it. Share via Email … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We hope you will consider supporting us today. We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Topics comment Share on Facebook For all our romantic blarney about what Test cricket means to the Irish, Porterfield’s blunt truth is that the chance to play the game is just a bonus that came along with full membership of the ICC, which Ireland were finally granted last year. Full membership allows their administrators to plan not just for six to 12 months but three years down the line, to know what fixtures they are going to get and what funding they are going to get.“So that is probably the biggest thing it brings from Cricket Ireland’s point of view,” Porterfield said, “and Test cricket comes along with that and we are fortunate enough to get that opportunity. But, to be honest, T20 probably has taken over.”One could see that in the scaffolding grandstands. Cricket Ireland had set up only 6,000 seats and it did not fill them. When Ireland play two T20s against India this summer, the capacity will be increased to 8,000. Outside England and Australia Test cricket is a heritage business. The Irish may as well have discovered a sudden enthusiasm for steam trains.last_img read more