Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie has admitted his side’s World Cup Qualifiers are “far more important” than their upcoming Test Match against England.
Balbirnie’s side will play their second Lord’s Test match, and just their seventh ever in the format, in the first game of the England international summer on Thursday.
Despite the rarity of such an occasion, Ireland’s Performance Director Richard Holdsworth said the Test is not a “pinnacle event” as he also focused on qualifying campaigns for the 50-over and T20 World Cups in 2023 and 2024 respectively.
One of the country’s leading seamers, Josh Little, will accordingly be rested for the game after remaining in the IPL to play the final with Gujarat Titans as Ireland look to keep him fit for two potentially vital campaigns later this summer.
“We’re going to be playing a Qualifier in Scotland in front of maybe 30 people against Italy, and it’s going to be far more important than the Test match,” Balbirnie told ESPNcricinfo.
“I don’t want that to sound disrespectful to England or the ECB because we’re going to do our absolute best to try to get a result, and it’s an honour to play at Lord’s against England – but it’s a one-off Test in the middle of the summer.”
The 32-year-old, who knows Lord’s well after playing for Middlesex earlier in his career, felt England may take a similar approach to the Test, as he added: “The Ashes is their most important thing. I’d imagine they’ll be looking at this as a glorified warm-up.
“If we get bowled out for 30 in both innings against England but qualify for both World Cups, that’s a win; that’s our most successful summer ever. I hope that doesn’t happen, but World Cups are where we get our most publicity on the world stage and back home – particularly for a tournament in India and what that brings.”
Ireland will fly to Bulawayo after the Test to play in a Qualifier for this autumn’s World Cup. They will compete with Sri Lanka, West Indies, USA, the Netherlands, Nepal, Zimbabwe, Oman, Scotland and the UAE for the final two spots in the tournament, which will take place in India.
They will then travel to Scotland for T20 World Cup Qualifiers, with games against Italy, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Jersey, and Scotland.
While it’s significance to the future of Irish cricket may be low compared to the prospect of appearing at two major ICC tournaments, the Lord’s Test will give Ireland a chance to improve their record in the format after losing all six of their games to date.
They were beaten 2-0 in Sri Lanka earlier this year but did make strides with the bat, posting 492 in the first innings of the second Test thanks to hundreds from Paul Stirling and Curtis Campher.
Ireland did bowl England out for 85 on the first morning of their only previous Test meeting in 2019, but still lost after making just 38 in the fourth innings.