Ireland are forced to focus on a white ball future for time being

Cricket Ireland have announced a series of 12 home and away fixtures for 2021 to add to their Wolves tour to Bangladesh, which starts this week.

The Wolves, the equivalent of the England Lions, will play first in an eight-game series against Bangladesh A in Chattogram and Dhaka. The series is multi-format including a four-day game, five 50-over contests and two T20s.

It seems like a pragmatic approach to increasing the exposure of the next generation of Irish talent to all formats of the game in all conditions – although the squad is a strong one, featuring a number of players with experience in the senior side, including Mark Adair, the fast bowler who made a good impression in the Test against England in 2019, and top order batsman James McCollom.

There was also a call-up for Graham Hume, the North-West Warriors all-rounder who was born in South Africa, starring for them in the Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand in 2010, where his fast-medium claimed 13 wickets. He played against an Ireland side containing current captain Andrew Balbirnie and opening batsman Paul Stirling in that competition.

Hume will qualify to play for the senior side next year.

The cricketing summer for the Irish side starts away from home, with 3 ODIs scheduled against the Netherlands. They will count as part of the ICC World Cup Super League, a partial round robin league of home and away games, which serves as part of the 2023 World Cup qualification process.

South Africa will play six games – three ODIs and three T20s – at Malahide and Stormont over a two-week period in July, which is almost certain to be in a bubble-controlled environment. It is their first time back to face Ireland in 14 years

As the South Africans depart, the Zimbabwe team arrive for a identical slate of games, but using Bready as a second base. The three Zimbabwe ODIs also count towards the World Cup Super League, trying to make up for lost ground due to the Covid travel restrictions.

The announcement did come with a note of disappointment that a scheduled Test against Zimbabwe for this summer has had to be postponed.

“Unfortunately, due to the fixture rescheduling of the international cricket calendar, and twin financial constraints brought about by COVID and the fact that we do not have a dedicated cricket stadium yet, we are simply unable to afford a home Test in 2021,” said Warren Deutrom, the chief executive of Cricket Ireland.

“Test cricket is still a highly-revered format of our sport that we will be seeking to play more frequently in future years. However, given the reasons stated, and the fact it is a T20 World Cup year, the Board felt our priority should be white-ball cricket this season to give our squad the best chance of success on the world stage.”

The summer’s work may not be over for the main squad as there is the intriguing potential of another two games against Pakistan – a fixture that has particular resonance for Guerilla Cricket, who were the audio rights holders for the inaugural Test between the two countries in 2018. The Pakistan games may well be played in England, as Ireland’s fourth internationally accredited ground in Clontarf is unavailable.