Ireland will play two Tests in Galle against Sri Lanka in April, instead of one Test and two ODIs as originally planned. Cricket Ireland (CI) confirmed the rejigged schedule on Monday.
This will be Ireland’s first Test assignment that is not a one-off Test. It also means that by the end of their summer, they would have more than doubled their Test count, with one-off Tests against Bangladesh in early April and against England at Lord’s in June also scheduled. They have played three Tests to date, since earning Test status in 2017 along with Afghanistan. Those three Tests were against Pakistan at home, against Afghanistan in Dehradun in India, and against England at Lords in 2019 – they have gone almost four years since a Test match, and are yet to register their first win in the format.
Sri Lanka’s players have been keen on playing more Test cricket – the extra Test against Ireland will take their aggregate for the year up to six.
Till yesterday, they were in with a chance of making the World Test Championship (WTC) final this June, following a good 2021-23 WTC cycle. They needed to win in Christchurch – where they went down to New Zealand by two wickets in a last-ball thriller – to keep their chances of making the final alive.
Veteran batter Angelo Mathews spoke on the topic during the Christchurch Test, saying: “Everyone’s talking about Test cricket dying, but we’re not doing any good for Test cricket playing only five Tests a year. Hopefully we’ll get more matches this year. Five feels like not enough.”
Richard Holdsworth, CI’s high-performance director, said Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) had come to the Ireland board with the request to play a second Test. “When we were approached by SLC about the possibility of a change to the schedule, our immediate thoughts were around our white-ball priority, given the potential 50-over World Cup qualification later this year still being a tangible outcome.
“Talking through our priorities and their priorities, we agreed to the late change given that the Test series is preceded by six white-ball matches [for Ireland] in Bangladesh, and followed by three further ODIs [hosting Bangladesh in England] after we return home.
“Exposing our playing group to an extended period in Asian conditions will be beneficial to their development and given the World Cup this year is in India, the more exposure to these conditions, the better – despite it being a different format.”
Both Sri Lanka and Ireland are in precarious positions on the ODI Super League points table; they currently sit at Nos. 10 and 11 respectively, with only the top eight qualifying automatically for the 2023 World Cup. The teams that finish nine and below would be involved in a qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe in June-July, with two World Cup slots up for grabs. However, cutting the ODIs in Sri Lanka are not going to affect their chances as the series was not part of the Super League.
Ireland squad for the Sri Lanka tour: Andrew Balbirnie (capt), Mark Adair, Curtis Campher, Murray Commins, George Dockrell, Fionn Hand, Graham Hume, Matthew Humphreys, Tom Mayes, Andrew McBrine, James McCollum, PJ Moor, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Ben White