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Ireland plan first-class structure

Andrew McGlashan

August 24, 2011

Comments: 48 | Text size: A | A

George Dockrell was impressive again for Ireland, Afghanistan v Ireland, ICC WCL Division 1, Rotterdam, July 4  2010
George Dockrell, the 19-year-old left-arm spinner, is already on England's radar © Getty Images
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Plans are being put in place for a first-class structure in Ireland that could pave the way for the country to become a Test nation. Although still a long way from coming to fruition, possibly a decade, Cricket Ireland believes it is a realistic aim following the team's rise in one-day international and Twenty20 cricket.

Warren Deutrom, the chief executive, confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that talk of a first-class game in Ireland wasn't just a pipe-dream and that it is a major part of the road map for cricket's future in the country. Though he was not willing to commit to a date or expand on details of any discussions that have taken place, there is a belief that the game in Ireland is becoming strong enough to support a first-class system.

"Do I think it can be achieved? If I didn't I may as well not be in the job," Deutrom said. "There is no time frame to it, but it is certainly something we want to achieve."

While Bangladesh gained Test status without a first-class competition in place - that was all to do with the Asian bloc vote and is a major reason why they have struggled to adapt to the long format - Ireland would need to prove their game could sustain a decent standard. The development of 12,000-seater ground at Malahide, a suburb of Dublin, is a sign of Ireland's serious aims.

"I think don't anything should be ruled out," William Porterfield, the Ireland captain, said when asked about Test cricket for Ireland. "It might not be in my playing career, but it could be if you see the steps we've taken in the last four years. We have everything in place to push on."

Seven of the current squad for the match against England at Clontarf make their living in county cricket and one of the driving forces behind trying to expand the game in Ireland is the continued loss of players to the English game. It is being highlighted this week with Eoin Morgan leading England for the first time, while Boyd Rankin, who will open the bowling for Ireland, is on their radar and George Dockrell has been noted as one to watch.

Cricket Ireland now offer contracts to their leading players but young cricketers who want to reach Test level still have no choice but to follow the England route. Although Ireland can continue to play them until they are selected by the full side - not the Lions as in Rankin's case - the moment they play an international they can't switch back if their career stalls unless they spend four more years qualifying, as Ed Joyce did before the 2011 World Cup.

"In the last few years we've produced a lot of good cricketers and in an ideal world we'd be playing at the highest level ourselves," Porterfield said. "We want to become a Full Member, even if that's just to be a part of the FTP for one-dayers, we have to keep progressing. We have shown we deserve to be there. In an ideal world everyone would be based at home and we'd have a first-class structure in Ireland and wouldn't have to rely on England. I think that's the direction it's moving in and hopefully plans will be put in place over the next few years."

In the shorter term, though, the challenge for Ireland is to increase their exposure to top-level ODI cricket. Matches such as Thursday's against England are a key part but the team needs regular contests against the Full Members and Cricket Ireland are hopeful of having a visit from Australia next year.

However, the international schedule is crammed. In recent times plans have fallen through for series against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh due to their other international commitments which now include Zimbabwe's return to Test cricket. The Irish board are likely to accept an invite to join the Hong Kong Sixes for the first time this year, but while a welcome addition to their profile, it isn't proper cricket and there is hope that a trip to West Indies might materialise.

Early next year Ireland will take part in the World Twenty20 qualifiers to try and secure their place at the full tournament in Sri Lanka next September. There are places for two Associates at that event after the ICC's decision to revert to a 14-team 50-over World Cup for 2015 instead of a 16-team Twenty20 although Associate nations are still considering how to challenge that. While Test cricket is the dream goal for Ireland, the pressure is on them to keep qualifying for the major limited-overs events and build on the successes of the last five years.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by oranjizer on (August 27, 2011, 19:09 GMT)

Anyways the Irish showed a lot of character in the world cup. Hope they groom their talent well an make it big. It will only help the game.

Posted by tfjones1978 on (August 27, 2011, 9:20 GMT)

England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland are all part of the United Kingdom. England has hosted Ireland and Scotland in T20 & One day domestic matches in ECB program. Ireland withdrew from this as they looked like a county of England. ECB should do the right thing by Ireland & Scotland and create a UK Domestic cricket competition with three leagues: England (8 teams), Ireland (8 teams) and Scotland (8 teams). The winner of each league would be that years champion including a final and a trophy. Each year, after the leagues finish, a UK League is formed with 4 from England comp, 2 Ireland comp & 2 Scotland comp for each respective format. The UK League could be as little as sudden death matches to as much as a home & away competition. The three leagues would be made up of the follow: England (8 English teams), Ireland (3 Irish, 5 English teams), Scotland (3 Scotish, 5 English teams). Also, England should push ICC to create an Ireland test team and allow ECB & ICB player swops each year.

Posted by CricketChat on (August 26, 2011, 18:08 GMT)

This is really good news. I hope Ireland can get test status by 2015. Most of their players play in Eng county circuit anyway. So, it is not entirely new to them. On present form, they are better than Bangladesh and may be on par with Zim.

Posted by Balldinho on (August 26, 2011, 14:53 GMT)

It does not take TEN years to make a new Test Team .... Cricket needs to come out of the Dinosaur ages with its Elitist system and let the WORLD play!!!!

Posted by Z.Saleem on (August 26, 2011, 9:20 GMT)

I think Ireland team has great potential, they shouldn't allow any Irish player to play for England once they have played an international for Ireland. Morgan would have been Ireland's captain, had he chosen not to leave his country.....I strongly believe that with players like Rankin, Brian Brothers, Porterfield, Dockrell, Ed Joyce, Stirling etc, they do have great potential to be a really good team!

Posted by RandyOZ on (August 26, 2011, 4:41 GMT)

I see no supporting evidence that Ireland are better than Bangladesh or Zimbabwe - yet. Maybe they could be but they need status first, which they will not get without the backnig of the ICC (aka BCCI). I don't think the Irish administration is lobbying the subcontient enough. They need to come up with a business case that will make money for India in particular. This is how Indian cricket works - unless they are making money they have zero interest in developing the game (or their own players, based on the recent series!)

Posted by gothetaniwha on (August 26, 2011, 4:20 GMT)

Ten years time is too long , the time is now ,4 FC teams is enough or even A tours from NZ AUS SA INDIA during there off season .DON,T make the same mistakes that BD and to a lesser degree Sri Lanka did by start playing test cricket without a FC structure in place . England need to front up and help with tours and coaching and releasing county players with Irish passports or incentives for there counties to have Irish players on there books to help Ireland out . Ireland will be the next country to gain status - so lets all help to speed things up .

Posted by   on (August 26, 2011, 4:09 GMT)

Ireland will get there, but there is no reason to push too fast or too much. It is still not one of Irelands National sports, but it is growing in stature. Money is also an issue, while sponsorship is good for the Irish national team, and most of the national players are contracted, There is still a long way to go before Ireland consistantly produces talent. They are getting there, and their gradual rise has been due to the development of grass-roots programs and infrastructure. But give it time, perhaps 2-5 years for a first class structure, even if it only consists of 3-4 teams to start with. And Test cricket 2-3 years after that. I would expect that later in the decade we might see that, but as the example of Kenya has shown, one good generation of players does not make a team ready for test cricket. The infrastructure and development programs must be in place to ensure that the country is competitive.

Posted by   on (August 26, 2011, 3:25 GMT)

They need to stop talking and start acting. Get four teams set up with three or four foreign players in each to bring in the crowds and keep the standards up, play each other say three/four times a season in four day games while entering the English 20 over and 40 competitions (it would be no problem just to add another group or add one more team to the existing ones. Give it three years to settle while playing some ODIs, then schedule some tests against Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and possibly NZ or WI. Playing against a better team would just be a waste of time at first, but even if the standard is low at least their would be a contest, which is what the public wants to see. If all these execs sit around discussing it for the next ten years the moment will pass and it'll never happen.

Posted by LiamF on (August 26, 2011, 0:10 GMT)

Excellent, I was hoping some news like this would pop up soon. Of course if the ICC showed any consistency Ireland should already have Test status.... But good news anyway, I dont know exactly what processes you have to go through have your domestic setup enabled as First Class/List A etc, but hopefully it's in motion sooner rather than later. Hell I'll I'd be tempted to come Ireland and play for one of the teams ;)

Posted by   on (August 25, 2011, 23:12 GMT)

hahaha...what a joke ? The country who can not even hold their own citizens from playing in other countries national team are talking about other countries. First decide in which team Ed joyce, Eoin Morgan, George Dockrell, Boyd Rankin will paly then talk about other countries team. At least you have to think before talking about other countries because Ireland still have not gone to a position from where you can talk so much like England, India, Australia or South Africa.

Posted by Stumay on (August 25, 2011, 22:51 GMT)

A first-class structure in Irish cricket is the way forward if there is to be serious thought given to playing at test level. It doesn't need to be a huge system and playing in the County Championship would be a non-starter due to the already over-crowded English set-up. Going with a system whereby the Ireland form 4 provinces and perhaps invite Holland or Scotland to make another would be an interesting and beneficial idea. For any new system a certain degree of regional rivalry is required and adding in Holland or Scotland too ensures those nations receive exposure to 4-day cricket on a regular basis. Irish cricket has come along rapidly recently and the next few years could be very interesting.

Posted by Sportsscientist on (August 25, 2011, 22:07 GMT)

Long over due. Personally I can't understand why it's taken so long. They could have started with some selective 3 day games to begin with. They could have used specific bank holidays or events like easter, to lessen the financial burden. Anyway, at least it's been put in motion lets hope they can get first class cricket and test cricket within 10 years - Roger Allot, I fear your idea could be problematic.........Ireland already have issues with Morgan playing for England. Becoming "another county" may give England more licence to poach. Also I wish players would stop comparing Bangladesh with Ireland. The politics of Ireland, England and Great Britain, mean the regulations on UK residency make the situation with Irland losing players much more complex and makes direct comparisons irrelevant.

Posted by Rocket_180 on (August 25, 2011, 19:38 GMT)

India played Sussex today England played Ireland, now the sad thing for me was that Sussex really had no interest in there match against India and it was played in front of 1 man and his dog and Sussex sent out a near 2nd side showing no interest in making it a real contest.

Where Ireland sent out there full team, sold out the match around 7000 specators, brought temp stands and made a real go of it and it was a cracking effort by Ireland to beat England and Ireland put on a real show

this just shows why test sides should play there warm up games in lesser nations not local/county sides - food for thought ICC

Posted by   on (August 25, 2011, 18:43 GMT)

i think ireland got talent.their players are performing very well in county 40 over cricket.their batsman ed joyce,stirling,neil oberien,kevin oberien are the leading run scorer.they have good batting an d feilding my openion icc should allow them odi full member.they should play as much odis agsinst test playing nation as zimbabwe,bangladesh did.ireland is better team than bangladesh and zimbabwe .they have proven it.ireland need to built their own profsional domestic structure and prevent hter player to play 4 england.

Posted by Roger_Allott on (August 25, 2011, 18:17 GMT)

Ireland should be integrated into a broader county championship. If Ireland could create 2 county sides, and Scotland and Holland could create a further 2 each, that would make 24 first class counties spread over three divisions of 8 teams each.

Posted by Dashgar on (August 25, 2011, 17:14 GMT)

I think a first class system in Ireland should be a five year, not ten year plan. I'd also suggest Scotland being one of the teams in the competition

Posted by   on (August 25, 2011, 13:04 GMT)

I think most people on here are spot on. A tour to England should always consist of tests/ODIs against England and then maybe 3 ODIs against Ireland or similar. Or why not a first class game over 4 days rather than a 'test match'? I don't see why a first class system needs to be 10 years away. If Ireland are realistic they could have a 4 team first class competition set up fairly quickly, run that for a few years and expand it as necessary. I reckon within a few years Ireland would be a decent test side, something Banagladesh have never managed, but that is another story!

Posted by   on (August 25, 2011, 13:00 GMT)

yeah the icc should be helping them set up a first class system, but i couldnt expect anything else seeing the icc is helping run the game so perfectly, west indian cricket is broke, zimbabwe is a joke, bangledesh develop and test status is a joke. how long it taken to stage a day night test hasnt even happen. didnt world series cricket play daynight super tests mmmmmmm. interesting. its a joke and a blight on the game of cricket when ireland few shining lights of the last two world cups have been neglected to the point where the players to play at a higher level have to play for england. they should be getting more international games

Posted by Truemans_Ghost on (August 25, 2011, 12:50 GMT)

I'd love to see it happen, but would be amazed if it was viable. Can Ireland support enough teams to make a meaningful competition? Could England accomodate a couple of Irish sides in the Couty championship? I can understand the desire for independance, but surely playing English County cricket would develop players and a national team more effectively.

Posted by Nduru on (August 25, 2011, 12:19 GMT)

@Herbet. What evidence have you that shows that Ireland are better than Zimbabwe? They could not beat our second team in a first class match last year, and the ODI record reads: played 7, of which Ireland have won just two and drawn one.

Posted by Elliott_Tree on (August 25, 2011, 12:06 GMT)

I do wonder whether a formal 2-division Test setup is the way forward, with promotion/relegation every couple of years or so. The are obviously plenty of issues which would need resolving, but it would help keep all games competitive and meaningful and make it easier to expand the cricket family as countries like Ireland improve their standards.

Posted by   on (August 25, 2011, 11:26 GMT)

The time to give Ireland test status is now. Test nations could give Ireland just one test following on from their usual series. England could play two series of just three tests every other year and play Ireland in one test to make up the now usual seven. The side is good enough to compete but keep losing players to England. Ireland could play four or five tests a year against different test nations.

Posted by Herbet on (August 25, 2011, 11:03 GMT)

I think Ireland should get one organised as soon as possible. It makes cricket look silly when you have Irishmen playing for Ireland, then England and then Ireland again! Ideally they could have a short 1st class season between the 4 provinces and still allow their best players to play for county sides. If that became impractical then maybe the 4 provinces could tour England every year and play a couple of counties, whoever's touring, England Lions, Scotland and the Universities. Ireland are already better than Zimbabwe and Bangladesh and not that far off New Zealand so I dont see the point in waiting a decade. Having a minor national league hasn't stopped Ireland having a relatively successful football team.

Posted by Domzo on (August 25, 2011, 9:29 GMT)

I think that's an excellent initiative for Ireland, and as an Englishman who has moved across the Irish sea I'd love to see First Class cricket over here. My only concern is that there is a lot of competition for a slice of the sports pie here - the GAA sports of course, Golf is very popular at the moment because of some very strong Irish players, Rugby, Soccer, Equestrian sports and Boxing are all arguably more established than cricket. That said Ireland has some very good players, and the World Cup victory over England really did resonate over here so I don't see why they shouldn't be able to establish something that worked.

Posted by Nduru on (August 25, 2011, 8:45 GMT)

@DazTaylor, I fully agree that the Ireland lads have a huge advantage because they have unrestricted access to the English County system. I think this is one reason they have become so good. Ireland is also lucky in that, as a first world country, it has attracted a number of experienced South African and Australian players to play for it (albeit guys who married Irish girls). Unfortunately, we do not have that luxury in Zimbabwe as the last 10 years has mostly repelled people from the country. I find it thus hugely encouraging that Zim has still been able to come through the tough times and there may be better ones ahead. Good luck to Ireland though. Both today and in future. I do think regular Zim vs Ireland tests would be great for the game.

Posted by ather_aziz on (August 25, 2011, 8:30 GMT)

I honestly cant wait for the day when Ireland plays their first test match it would be such a spectacle and it wud just be great to b a part of history and wen the do become the 11th full nation member of the icc cant wait for it man they have tromendus talent gud luck ireland go ireland go !!!

Posted by GoodGrief on (August 25, 2011, 2:09 GMT)

This is a great initiative from Ireland and I hope they are successful, but don't full members have an obligation to assist developing nations in their region?? Long term they need a first class competition and it could well be 10+ years away. I think it would be great, as a stepping stone, to allow Ireland to field a side in the County Championship - this could be increased to 2 over the next (say) 3 to 5 years. This would help create interest in Ireland and opportunities for their players. They also require more ODI exposure, not just the odd game here and there. Would also love to see an annual first class game between a "British Lions" side and teams touring England. This could be side comprising players from Ireland, Scotland and the England Lions squads. OK it would not be a Test Match, but it would be the next best thing, especially of played over 5 days (of course that would never happen).

Posted by Meety on (August 25, 2011, 1:47 GMT)

@Innocent_Abroad - should Ireland achieve Test status, I would hope that their domestic Test matches would be in-sync with the ENglish tour program. This would mean that say the Ashes are due to be played in England, either prior to, or afterwards, Oz would play Ireland. In other words like how some teams play Ireland in ODIs after their tour to England (SL just did so). This would give Ireland at least 2 home Tests, & I would imagine they could play 1 test per year against England. Add tours to Zimbabwe & Bangladesh, Ireland could easily play 5 or 6 tests a year. This would be plenty whilst they develop.

Posted by AzyS on (August 25, 2011, 1:40 GMT)

Great to hear that ireland are doing their best to take their game up the next level.. this will surely help them push for a spot for the Full member status.. this needs to be implemented as soon as possible say in the next 4-5 years instead of 10 years as it says in this report.. given that it will be difficult but then thats life.. most important will be to generate revenue for this and what better than to get in the corporates and give them franchises.. it should be a simple model of 4day,50over & t20 leagues running along the lines of their English Neighbours with 4-6 teams to start with.. the ICC should help them with funding, planning and fully backing them as we all know that the Irish team is ready for the International ODI's and T20's and maybe even Tests.. all the best and hope Ireland is the 11th Full member..

Posted by   on (August 25, 2011, 1:18 GMT)

Great news - good plan - whats missing is the ICC's blessing/support/help. Deutrom (who I respect) seems to have to operate in a vacuum with a defined goal without the planned steps for him to get Ireland there. As far as I can tell we are not even asking the ICC for money - just a path. Again outside the top test playing nations there is no direction or little interest in the governors of our sport - shame on them. Although we are on the outside looking in - Bangladesh have similar issues - they have never played a test in India? never? never? really? If we have no interest in expanding test nations beyond the top 8 lets just declare that and stop with the empty words ......this is a scandalous way of running a global sport.

Posted by   on (August 25, 2011, 0:58 GMT)

It would be good to see Ireland gaining test status - I am sure that Ireland currently have the players to compete alongside half of the current test sides. But it would add yet more matches to a future tours programme that is already over congested. Splitting the test teams into two leagues, with promotion/demotion would make much more sense and would make it much easier to promote deserving associates.

Meanwhile the ICC should reduce the qualification period for those who wish to return to representing associate countries after appearing for a test nation. Let players like Morgan return and pass on their experience when their test careers end.

Posted by   on (August 24, 2011, 22:24 GMT)

the four provinces are unlikely to make up the teams, it would be more likely North Leinster, South Leinster, North west and North with Munster as a possible 5th team.

Posted by bumsonseats on (August 24, 2011, 22:23 GMT)

im not sure how eoin morgan decided he wanted to play test cricket. perhaps someone on here can explain. was he tapped up by england by whatever means. or did he decide that was the root he wanted to make hoping to play 20/20 or 50 overs cricket. then on to test cricket. dpk

Posted by Evilpengwinz on (August 24, 2011, 22:06 GMT)

I wouldn't have a problem with Ireland playing Test Cricket now as long as they could get all of the players into County Cricket sides on merit, and could guarantee a first-class structure in time for it to be in place for the next batch of youngsters coming through.

Posted by niyasindian on (August 24, 2011, 21:47 GMT)


Posted by Yevghenny on (August 24, 2011, 21:03 GMT)

Would be great to see Ireland build a real platform for cricket, rather than rely on a world cup every 4 years. An England Ireland rivalry would be fantastic to watch, and great atmosphere too

Posted by MaruthuDelft on (August 24, 2011, 20:31 GMT)

I can't believe this; why can't they see the easy way? Ireland must become a county side; they should convince England authorities to add them to the county circuit. Surely they will succeed. Financially home games against counties in Ireland would draw good crowds. Sri Lanka achieved test status by toouring England to play the counties but it is much easier for Ireland. With the rise of England and spreading of high standards in the region it could be possible that Ireland outplays Banglad, Zim and Windies in the coming WC if allowed to play.

Posted by DazTaylor on (August 24, 2011, 20:20 GMT)

@Nduru It is chicken and egg though isn't it? Giving Ireland test status means they wont be allowed to play for England (I think). But the best Irish players already play First Clsss cricket in England. Under EU law they are entitled to without any issues. So their case is different to Zimbabwe/Bangladesh.

Posted by   on (August 24, 2011, 19:27 GMT)

Great news for Irish cricket and if we can gain a first class system then we are on our way to Test cricket, well done Warren and Co...

Posted by Nduru on (August 24, 2011, 19:23 GMT)

A point people often miss when calling for teams like Ireland and Netherlands etc to be given test status is that ODI promise does not necessarily mean you can make it as a test team. It is putting the cart before the horse to give test status when there is no local first class structure. This is what Zimbabwe have that at least allows them to produce competent test players. So it is a good move for Ireland to get a first class structure established asap because the truth is that until they do, they will not really be able to put a good test side together, and even worse, their good players will be poached by England. The solution to the poaching problem is not to award test status prematurely, but to get the game developed locally as fast a possible.

Posted by Innocent_Abroad on (August 24, 2011, 18:57 GMT)

Presumably they would have four teams, one from each province, as I believe happens in Irish Rugby Union. Dublin City might provide a fifth team, I suppose. Would five teams be enough for a first-class fixture list? The Aussies managed with only four at one time, didn't they?

It would be odd having another northern hemisphere team on the Test circuit. Presumably they would play 3-Test series against England, every other year, on either side of the Irish Sea alternately.

Posted by brittop on (August 24, 2011, 18:26 GMT)

Sounds a great idea. Look forward to Ireland's ascent to test cricket and the establishment of a great local rivalry with England.

Posted by Robster1 on (August 24, 2011, 18:19 GMT)

India will never let Ireland gain test status as it would dilute their sub continental grip on power. That said, the Irish now fully deserve regular one day international and 20/20 fixtures against test nations.

Posted by   on (August 24, 2011, 18:02 GMT)

First step is to stop the bleeding...where in all good Irish cricketers walk into english side. I agree they should be a part of the one day set up atleast

Posted by ChrisH on (August 24, 2011, 17:50 GMT)

"While Bangladesh gained Test status without a first-class competition in place - that was all to do with the Asian bloc vote and is a major reason why they have struggled to adapt to the long format"

Some poor English ("do" instead of "due") and poor research by Mr. McGlashan. Bangladesh never had a first-class structure simply because by the time Bangladesh became a separate cricketing entity after the war in the 1970s the ICC did not allow non-test countries to adjudge any matches to be first-class. After the 1940s only test nations and the ICC itself could declare matches to be first-class. What's even worse about McGlashan's speculation is that it seems to assume that Bangladesh did not have 2-day and 3-day cricket before test status which is not true. They had 3-day cricket from at least 1997 (3 years BEFORE test status) and had 2-day cricket from before that. Eire though hasbeen calling the ICC unfair in not giving it test status when it has NO multi-innings domestic cricket.

Posted by DazTaylor on (August 24, 2011, 17:47 GMT)

One rule for Bangladesh, one rule for others. Though they wont admit it, the ICC know fine well they promoted Bangladesh far too early so this will hinder Ireland unfortunately. I would love to see the ICC give financial help to Ireland to build a first class structure. Ireland becoming a Test Nation is only a matter of time and I would hope we (England) would immediately play them to help their growth.

Posted by SagirParkar on (August 24, 2011, 17:37 GMT)

ahh, i welcome that news with a glad heart.. it will give Irish cricketers of the future something to look forward to and take their game towards Test status.. atleast then many Irish players will have to stop looking at playing for England or another country just to be able to play the game internationally..

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Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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