Ireland on Asian odyssey

An historic tour of three Tests and six white ball games for the men's side has begun over the weekend.

It may not sound like much, but for smaller Full Member nations, this can’t be sniffed at. Even former number one sides West Indies and South Africa have suddenly found their Test calendar threadbare. For teams such as Ireland, this is huge.

The overall journey includes a series of three ODIs against Bangladesh, three T20s, then a single Test match on April 4th. Ireland then travel to Sri Lanka for a two match Test series.

Initially this was to include an extra ODI series, however Sri Lanka have opted to include a second Test instead. Ireland would have preferred the extra 50 over games, but will happily take more Test cricket opportunities

Since gaining Test status in 2017 Ireland have only played three Tests, with their last in 2019. Ireland now have four in 2023 alone with a date awaiting them in Lord’s against England in early June.

Ireland’s first assignment against Bangladesh in the ODI series provides a fierce challenge with the Tigers enjoying one of the strongest white ball records at home. Coming off a 3-0 T20I series whitewash of T20 World Cup champions England, Bangladesh were clinical in the first ODI against Ireland, winning by 183 runs.

Ironically in a year when Ireland suddenly get to add to their Test match account, the major focus for Ireland will be ODI cricket with the World Cup in India later this year and the pre-tournament Qualifier for this in Zimbabwe in July.

A major watch-out will be workloads with concerns already in the seam department. Barry McCarthy’s injury means Mark Adair will travel to Sri Lanka having originally been given a rest period ahead of a busy summer.

Left arm quick Josh Little was originally only included in the Bangladesh ODIs to allow for stints in both the PSL and IPL. Ireland selectors would prefer Little gain franchise experience, but their hands may be forced by more injuries.

Seam bowling shouldn’t worry too much as the vast bulk of overs on these trips to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will be taken up by spin bowling options. But this may expose Irish spin stocks.

How will young leg spinners Gareth Delaney (25) and Ben White (24) fare with the pressure of spinning conditions? They will surely be better for the challenge.

Ireland coach Heinrich Malan will also be rested with Gary Wilson taking the reigns for the T20 series in Sri Lanka. Captain Andrew Balbirnie was initially meant to be rested during the ODIs in Sri Lanka, but the addition of the second Test will likely alter this. Ireland coach Heinrich Malan was also to be rested with Gary Wilson taking the reins during part of the tour.

After four years with no Test cricket, Ireland suddenly find themselves back in action and will be eager to impress.

However as shown by Australia on the biggest stage against India in the Border-Gavaskar trophy, spinning conditions can make visiting sides look foolish if they don’t adapt quickly.

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