Australia will not play a Test match in Ireland ahead of the 2019 Ashes series because of scheduling pressure that leaves only ten free days between the World Cup final and the opening day of their flagship series against England, ESPNcricinfo has learned.
This is a double blow for Ireland, who have already been culled from the global one-day tournament – beginning in London one year from Wednesday – as a result of the ICC’s determination to reduce the number of competing countries from 14 to ten.
It also means that Australia will have only enough time for one match against an English county before the first Test, down from two lead-in fixtures on each of their last three Ashes tours.
Discussions between Cricket Australia and Cricket Ireland concluded with an acceptance from both parties that the tourists would not be able to in good faith commit to a five-day Test match in the days immediately following the World Cup decider on July 14.
A spokesman for Cricket Ireland said that they would “continue to explore alternative opportunities in the future” for the sides to play a Test after Cricket Australia relayed to them that “it wouldn’t be possible with timing and other commitments” in that narrow window.
Cricket Australia put on record that they looked at a “range of options” to play their first ever Test against Ireland and that they “will continue to look for these opportunities in the future”.
It is understood that Cricket Australia officials also raised the possibility of going to Ireland for a Test after the Ashes in September only to be knocked back. However, Cricket Ireland has far from ruled out such a match going ahead if the Australians are still game.
“Cricket Ireland continues to be open for discussion with Cricket Australia around opportunities in the future and will be continuing this conversation at the upcoming ICC Annual Conference in Dublin in just over a month’s time,” their spokesman said.
In the aftermath of Pakistan’s emphatic victory over England at Lord’s on Sunday, both captain Sarfraz Ahmed and coach Mickey Arthur credited the quality of their Test against Ireland in Malahide last month as an integral part of their immaculate preparation.
This comes as Stuart Law, coach of the West Indies side that snuck into the World Cup through a hyper-competitive qualification series in March, launch a spirited defence for the ongoing inclusion of Associate Member nations at the major quadrennial event.
Speaking to reporters at Lord’s ahead of West Indies’ T20 international against a World XI on Thursday, Law was complimentary of the improved performances of Associate Nations.
“Cricket is getting closer and there are no real easy beats,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of the Associate teams beating major teams in World Cups and in World T20s. That gap is narrowing, so thank goodness we got through.”
Asked if he agreed with the ICC reducing the size of the World Cup, Law elaborated. “We are trying to take it to the world and here we are blocking out some of the nations that have really featured heavily in the last couple of World T20s and 50-over World Cups,” he said.
“It is not for me to decide, I am just disappointed that we haven’t got the likes of the Irish in there because when they win they know how to party, they play with a smile on their face and they really enjoy their cricket, win lose or draw. They are a great team to be around and a great team to watch as well. So, it is a shame they are not in.”
It was a view shared by his captain, Carlos Brathwaite, who agreed that it was “very sad” that the tournament was contracting. “We should be keeping it at the same number or even trying to expand,” he said. “It is my opinion on the matter. Hopefully, the day will come where we get more teams and more countries involved and really spread the game of cricket.”
Earlier this month, Australia cancelled an incoming tour by Bangladesh, on the grounds that it was not “commercially viable”.