Thursday, May 30, 2024

Ireland to host South Africa in Abu Dhabi

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Ireland will stage a ‘home’ white-ball series against South Africa in Abu Dhabi later this year, a decision their board’s chief executive Warren Deutrom described as a “creative” way to help overcome “current infrastructure constraints”. They will also host a home men’s Test match for the second time in their history in July, when they play Zimbabwe in Stormont.

Ireland gained Full Member status in 2017 and staged their first men’s Test at Malahide, near Dublin, in 2018. But they do not have a permanent home stadium and the high costs of temporary infrastructure have meant that their six subsequent men’s Tests have been overseas, including their maiden victory against Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi earlier this year.

This summer they will stage a one-off Test against Zimbabwe at the Civil Service ground in Stormont, Belfast from July 25-29. But financial and logistical obstacles mean that the six white-ball games in that tour – three ODIs and three T20Is – are “not proceeding as things stand,” a Cricket Ireland spokesperson told ESPNcricinfo.

South Africa were initially due to tour Ireland for three ODIs and three T20Is in July, but will instead play two ODIs and three T20Is in Abu Dhabi from late September. It is the second successive away series against Ireland that South Africa will play on neutral ground, after Cricket Ireland moved two T20Is to Bristol in England in 2022.

“This fixture schedule attempts to strike a balance of competitive, high-quality cricket across multiple formats whilst addressing the challenges we face with respect to our current infrastructure constraints,” Deutrom said. “While we work on longer-term solutions for some of these challenges – most notably continuing to advocate to Government for the proposed permanent stadium – we know we’ll have to explore ways to creatively increase our capacity to host an ever-increasing schedule in the short term.

“Continually reviewing how best to optimise our hosting arrangements for cricket in Ireland and playing a few of our home matches in neutral venues overseas is something we must continue to explore, as we have done with the South Africa series this year.”

Deutrom previously confirmed that Australia’s scheduled tour for three ODIs and one T20I had been postponed indefinitely. Of Ireland’s 20 home men’s internationals in the Future Tours Programme for this summer, only four will actually take place in Ireland – the Zimbabwe Test, and three T20Is against Pakistan next month – while 11 have been either cancelled or postponed.

Ireland will also host England’s women for the first time since 1995, marking England’s first tour of the country in the professional era. Laura Delany’s side are currently in the UAE ahead of the global qualifier for the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh in October, and will face Sri Lanka in August before they play England in September.

“Irish cricket fans are in for a treat in 2024 with more than 40 days of senior international cricket to enjoy between April and October – potentially more if our women can qualify for this year’s T20 World Cup,” Deutrom said. “2024 offers a great array of fixtures for fans of both men’s and women’s cricket. And with the historic nature of the Belfast Test, the possibility of seeing Irish sides in two T20 World Cups, and some of the world’s best sides touring, it should be an unmissable season of Irish cricket.”

Ireland’s new ‘home’ fixtures:

Men’s:

July 25-29 – Test match vs Zimbabwe (Stormont)
September 27, 29 – T20Is vs South Africa (Abu Dhabi)
October 2, 4, 7 – ODIs vs South Africa (Abu Dhabi)

Women’s:

August 11, 13 – T20Is vs Sri Lanka (Pembroke)
August 16, 18, 20 – ICC Women’s Championship ODIs vs Sri Lanka (Stormont)
September 7, 9, 11 – ICC Women’s Championship ODIs vs England (Stormont)
September 14, 16, 17 – T20Is vs England (Clontarf)

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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