Ireland in line for first Australia Test amid politics and intrigue down under

Steve Smith will have a chance to batter Ireland

Tony Bishop

Ireland are reported to have been offered an historic Test down under as Cricket Australia seeks to ease criticisms about pulling out of series against less-established nations.

Negotiations are believed to be under way for the Irish to play there in the 2022-23 summer. It would be a second Test for them against one of the so-called Big Three after they made their first appearance at Lord's as a curtain-raiser to the Ashes in 2019.

Unnamed sources suggest the Test would be played in Hobart, a massive boost for Tasmania, which regularly misses out to bigger grounds on the Australian mainland in the international programme.

CA was widely criticised for the decision to postpone the Test tour of South Africa earlier this year, claiming it was worried about the country's ability to deliver on a biosecurity plan to protect players from Covid-19.

It continued a trend of withdrawals from games against smaller nations. Australia have pulled out of Tests against Bangladesh on three occasions, including last year – when they honoured commitments in England and allowed players to participate in the IPL during the pandemic0.

In the coming weeks, CA is expected to announce that their first Test against Afghanistan, who became full members of the ICC at the same time as Ireland in 2017, will be played in Hobart, presumably as a warm-up for the Ashes; it was originally planned for Perth last November.

It seems, though, that it was financial arm-twisting as much as altruism that ensured Afghanistan's presence after an independent arbitrator this month ruled CA would have to give Seven West Media a further $3 million deduction from its broadcast rights fee if the Test did not take place.

The mooted Test against Ireland also presents an opportunity for Earl Eddings, the CA chairman, to ease some of the uncertainty about his future in the job.

Eddings has been under fire from Cricket NSW, which had written to other states to say it would not be supporting his reappointment as an independent director on the CA board in October.

He needs support from four of the six states to approve his appointment by CA's nominations committee and, with NSW joined by Queensland in opposition, they need only one more state to join them to get rid of Eddings.

The Sydney Morning Herald cites a source who suggests that by staging the match in Tasmania, he will retain that state's support.

Politics and self-interest, then, may lurk at the centre of CA policy decisions, rather than a global view of cricket's greater good. Ireland and indeed all cricket followers should relish the outcome, rather than the intrigue that led to it.

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