Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie said beating England in a Test would “easily be our best achievement in cricket” as the underdogs prepare to face Ben Stokes’ men at Lord’s this week.
The Irish have made their reputation on the back of their exploits in white-ball internationals.
They defeated Pakistan, England and the West Indies at the 2007, 2011 and 2015 50-over World Cups respectively and beat eventual champions England at the 2022 T20 World Cup.
Ireland, however, have played just six Tests in their history and are still searching for a first win in that form of the game.
Four years ago, in their previous Test at Lord’s, they dismissed England for just 85, only to suffer a 143-run defeat after they themselves slumped to 38 all out in the fourth innings of the match.
“It didn’t play out the way we wanted to but we got a glimpse into what would happen if we were to win a Test,” said Balbirnie on Wednesday’s eve of the four-day Test.
“And, I think if we were to beat England, it would easily be our best achievement in cricket in the game.”
The odds, though, are stacked against Ireland, with England having won 10 of their 12 Tests since skipper Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum joined forces last year.
“We know that this England team is in a really good place leading to the Ashes,” said Balbirnie.
Ireland will be without Josh Little at Lord’s after the young fast bowler, who starred for the Gujarat Titans side that reached the recent Indian Premier League final, was rested for next month’s 50-over World Cup qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe.
Little also missed Tests against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka after his IPL exploits.
Ireland’s high performance director, Richard Holdsworth, defended the 23-year-old’s absence on the grounds a Test at Lord’s, a major landmark for most players, was not a “pinnacle event” for his side this year.
“Of course, we would have loved him here but I understand completely that he’s got to focus on resting up and getting ready for our World Cup qualifier,” said Balbirnie.
“Josh played in an IPL final in his first IPL appearance, I’m not stupid, he’s going to get picked up by other leagues and we are going to have this situation again, but he still wants to play for Ireland.
“I’ve spoken to him and he still loves playing for this team.”