Ireland have chosen the stronghold of Stormont in Belfast to host this season’s potentially two most important homes games – the final round of World Cup qualifiers against Scotland on September 6th and 8th.
After four of the seven rounds of ICC World Cricket League matches, Scotland lie in second place behind Ireland on the table with the two top sides qualifying automatically for the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Ireland and Scotland play their fifth round of qualifying matches this month, with Scotland taking on Afghanistan and Ireland playing the UAE in Sharjah. Ireland’s other fixtures in the WCL take place in early July when the team travel to The Netherlands.
In a busy season of international and domestic fixtures, Stormont will also play host to the touring Australian A side who will be playing a four-day game from June 14-17 to give their players practice in European conditions ahead of the Ashes campaign.
Ireland’s other games against Test-playing nations will see William Porterfield’s men facing Pakistan in the RSA Insurance ODI series at Clontarf in May, while the Blue Riband game of the year features England at the new ODI venue in Malahide on September 3.
Cricket Ireland is also engaging with ICC and the Bangladesh Cricket Board regarding repeating last year’s Bangladesh visit to Ireland, Scotland and The Netherlands, which CI has earmarked for the new home of major cricket in the North-West, at Bready CC.
Ireland coach Phil Simmons said: “It’s another incredibly important year for Irish cricket as we attempt to make it to the World Cup finals and also defend our ICC World Twenty20 qualifiers trophy in November.
“We’ve been to the final stages of five world tournaments and we want to make it seven. It’s fantastic that we’ve got the high profile matches on home soil against Pakistan and England, and we hope to get another series against Bangladesh in August as well.
“There’s also an extensive programme of Inter-Provincial cricket – all these fixtures will give myself and the selectors a good indication of the talent coming through below senior international level. It’s a great shop window for the players, and I’m sure it will prove a great success in strengthening Irish cricket.”
The re-launched Inter-Provincial Series sees 27 days of action across Ireland, as the Northern Knights, Leinster Lightning and North West Warriors do battle in three different formats of the game. The action kicks off in Leinster on April 28, with the sides facing each other in the Twenty20 competition.
The 50-over tournament gets under way at The Hills on May 6th with Leinster taking on the NW, while the same teams also kick off the three-day competition at College Park on May 14th.
At youth level, Ireland Under 19s face a crucial World Cup qualifying campaign in The Netherlands, while the U17s will start the defence of their title in the ICC Europe Challenge Series against traditional rivals The Netherlands and Scotland. The Under 15s are also in European action when they play in England in the ICC European Division One Championship.
Malahide has been chosen as the venue for the RSA Irish Senior Cup on August 24th, while Bready will host the RSA National Cup decider the following day.
It’s also a busy summer for Ireland’s women cricketers as Dublin plays host to the ICC World Twenty20 qualifiers in late July, with eight countries including Pakistan and Sri Lanka battling it out to secure the final qualification slot.
Ireland will also be competing in the Second Division of the ECB County Championship having secured promotion last year.
Ireland captain Isobel Joyce said: “The squad have been training hard since Christmas to prepare for the qualifiers. We know it won’t be easy – with only one place available – but hopefully home advantage will give us an edge in the key games.”