Porterfield leads ICC side against England
A selection of the leading Associate and Affiliate players, led by Ireland captain William Porterfield, will get their chance to compete against England, the No. 1 Test team in the world, next month after it was confirmed they will form part of England's preparations for the Test series against Pakistan in the UAE.
The team, which will be under the banner of an ICC Combined Associate and Affiliate (AM) XI, will face England from January 7-9 at the Global Cricket Academy in Dubai where players from countries below Test level regularly make use of the facilities for training. The team includes three Afghanistan players - pace bowler Hamid Hassan, allrounder Mohammad Nabi and batsman Mohammad Shahzad - while Porterfield is joined by Ireland team-mates Boyd Rankin and George Dockrell.
Rankin has been part of the England Lions set up, and is currently at a fast-bowling camp in Potchefstroom, while Dockrell, the left-arm spinner who plays for Somerset, is also on the England radar after making an impressive start to his Ireland career. Porterfield, Rankin and Dockrell were all involved in the famous World Cup match in Bangalore when Ireland beat England.
"It will be a great honour for me to lead out the Associate and Affiliate team against the No. 1 team in the longer format of the game," Porterfield said. "If you look through their squad they are full of world-class cricketers and it will be a great test for us against whatever XI they put out.
"Another challenge we face is coming together as a group ourselves; we have played against each other a few times but we will have to gel pretty quickly in the few days preparation we have in order to put in a good performance. As this is such a great chance for all the individuals to showcase their talent against the No. 1 Test team in the world, I do not see this being an issue at all."
Staging the series in the UAE, which is Pakistan's 'home' venue while they can't play in their own country, has created the issue of finding suitable warm-up opposition for England. The second game ahead of the Test series will see England face a Pakistan Board XI from January 11-13.
Pakistan, meanwhile, will prepare for the one-day series in February with a one-day international against Afghanistan. England will face their own Lions squad as they did on their previous visit to the UAE in 2010 when they played two Twenty20s against Pakistan. On that occasion the Lions beat the full team and the match saw the emergence of Michael Lumb and Craig Kieswetter as the opening partnership that played in the World Twenty20 in West Indies.
The first of three Tests starts in Dubai on January 17 and the tour also includes four one-day internationals and three Twenty20s.