Cricket fans all over the world have good reason to rejoice, as both Afghanistan and Ireland are set to take their baby steps in Test cricket. It’s silly to expect them to emerge victors right away, but hopefully the experience will make the cricketers more skilful, and its domino effect could be experienced in limited-overs cricket too.
“Test cricket is the pinnacle, it’s the best. Not being able to play Tests was the reason cited by some players, who weren’t able to achieve that career fulfilment with Ireland, as the reason they went to England. That reason is now removed, we can play Tests ourselves. Who can say for certain that players won’t leave in the future, but that can’t be the reason for it now,” Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom was quoted as saying by ESPN Cricinfo.
Shafiq Stankizai, ACB’s chief executive was similarly excited. “Another day that we can lock in our history and be proud. Every achievement is great, but it opens the door to challenges. We’ll be hosting our international matches in Greater Noida and Sharjah, there should be a day when we can host inside Afghanistan,” he was quoted as saying by ESPN Cricinfo.
While the promotion has come as a result of the two teams being on top of associate rankings for some time, both teams have registered memorable victories against top sides to prove that they can compete with the cricket’s elite class.
Ireland’s most famous victory probably came against Pakistan in the 2007 World Cup, a tournament where they surprised everyone by reaching the Super Eights, where they registered another win against Bangladesh. They then beat England in the 2011 World Cup courtesy of a cracking century from Kevin O’Brien, and got the better of West Indies in the 2015 World Cup by chasing down a mammoth 304, with four overs to spare.
Afghanistan on the other hand, have developed extremely quickly. Their premier spinner Rashid Khan wreaked havoc for Sun Risers Hyderabad in the 2017 edition of IPL. They recently drew an ODI series against West Indies, and defeated Zimbabwe 3-2 in a closely fought 5-match ODI series. But, the biggest icing on their cake would be their win against eventual champions West Indies in the 2016 T20 World Cup.
While the two teams have been given Test status, they will probably not play a lot of matches as a lot of top teams might not co-operate for a bi-lateral series. Still, you’ll probably see them compete with each other or teams like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. If one of these sides manages to win those games by a comfortable margin, we’ll probably see them take on tougher challenges.