Ireland deserve place in Test arena says William Porterfield

Ireland's William Porterfield
Ireland's William Porterfield

William Porterfield feels Ireland proved they belong in cricket’s longest format after their gripping inaugural Test ended in a five-wicket loss to Pakistan.

The 11th nation to compete in the five-day arena were dreaming of a miracle in Malahide when they had Pakistan 14 for three in pursuit of a victory target of 160.

However, an unbeaten 74 for Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam’s 59 helped the tourists claim a victory that had been on the cards once they bowled Ireland out for 130 on Sunday to establish a 180-run lead.

There have been just three victories for teams following on, and no country has won their inaugural Test since Australia won the first ever contest in 1877, yet Ireland flirted with making history on both fronts by making 339 second time around.

Having beaten Pakistan, West Indies and England at World Cups, Porterfield felt their spirited performance in Malahide was evidence they deserve their seat at the sport’s top table too.

“The biggest thing was how we fought back in the second innings with the bat - that showed the character we have,” the Irish captain said.

“It’s something that’s been talked about during big occasions, World Cups. That’s always been known to be there but Test cricket is Test cricket for a reason, it’s there in the name, you did get tested and we were after the first innings.

“To get up to close to 350 showed what we’ve got in the changing room and the passion that we have for playing our cricket.”

Those who turned up to watch proceedings across the five days included Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger.

Yet he missed Kevin O’Brien post a century the following day - a feat Porterfield hopes can have a lasting impact for the future of the game in the country.

“Hopefully in the next week or two there’s going to be hundreds of little kids aspiring to be Kevin O’Brien in backstreet cricket,” he added.

“This Test match will have gone a long way to providing the next generation of cricketers, I’m sure.”

Some of their elders may have been hooked by O’Brien’s previous international ton - a record-breaking 50-ball effort in the World Cup victory over England in 2011.

Yet the downsizing of the 50-over competition, and Ireland’s failure to qualify for one of the 10 berths, means Porterfield’s team will not be in next year’s tournament.

“We wouldn’t have got to where we were if we didn’t get those opportunities to put down a marker on the world stage,” he claimed.

“That gives you an opportunity to create enough noise. To miss out by it just being a 10-team World Cup is bitterly disappointing.

“We wouldn’t have had the opportunity to play a Test match today I don’t think if we hadn’t been playing the last 10, 12 years at World Cups.”

The Irish can take heart from the fact they had Pakistan fearing they would enter next week’s meeting with England at Lord’s on the back of a Test defeat.

As it was, a key fourth-wicket stand of 126 from their own Test debutant Imam and 23-year-old Azam spared their blushes.

“Definitely we were worried when we were down 14 for three,” captain Sarfraz Ahmed admitted.

“It’s really good that these two young players in our team, Imam-ul-haq and Babar Azam, the way they played, they showed their character, confidence.

“I think the way they played gives great confidence to the team and will help them in the next matches as well.”