Ireland announce plans to apply for Test status

Kevin O'Brien
Kevin O'Brien hit the fastest century in World Cup history against England

Ireland have announced that they are applying to the International Cricket Council for Test match status.

The Irish, who have set 2020 as their target entry date, are currently ICC associate members, which means they play one-day internationals and T20 games but not Test matches.

They have earned wins over Pakistan and England at the last two World Cups.

Central contracts are to be given to 23 Ireland players while coach Phil Simmons has signed a new two-year deal.

Simmons's contract extension will keep him in charge until the completion of the qualifying campaign for the next World Cup.

Cricket Ireland published a strategic plan on Tuesday which, it maintains, outlines a road map that will take the country to the Test arena by 2020.

The plan outlines proposals to establish a domestic first-class cricket structure in Ireland and to increase the numbers playing the game to 50,000.

Cricket Ireland chiefs also believe the country can improve its one-day world ranking from its current position of 11th to eighth and that the sport can become firmly established as the country's fourth most popular team sport behind Gaelic games, football and rugby.

"We have set ourselves a very clear long-term ambition - to become a full Test nation by 2020, nothing less," said chief executive Warren Deutrom.

"This is not a dreamy aspiration but a real ambition founded on the playing talent being developed on this island, the growing passion and profile of the game here, a sustained and proven track record of achievement on and off the field, and a clear roadmap set out by us for how to get there."

Cricket Ireland also confirmed that several new commercial funding deals are in place, while principal sponsors RSA Insurance are understood to have extended their deal until 2015.

Ireland's application for Test status aims to build on the momentum created by last year's memorable World Cup victory over England.

Irish cricket was stunned a month later when the International Cricket Council appeared to close the door on qualification for the 2015 World Cup by announcing plans to restrict places at the tournament to its 10 full member nations.

But after an outcry, the world governing body's executive board said in June that it was retaining the 14-team format and Ireland are already in a qualifying campaign for the 2015 tournament.

The win over England came four years after the heroic performance at their first World Cup appearance in 2007 when they shocked Pakistan to qualify for the second round of the competition.

But while Ireland have claimed notable scalps in the one-day game, the lack of Test cricket has led to players such as Ed Joyce and Eoin Morgan declaring for England - albeit Joyce later resumed his Ireland career.

Irish fast bowler Boyd Rankin has also spoken of his desire to represent England at Test level and has already represented the England Lions side.

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