England will host Ireland for two ODIs in 2017, in a move described as "an historic stepping stone for Irish cricket". The fixtures, one of which will be at Lord's, represent the first bilateral series between the sides, as well as the first time they have faced each other in England.
Under the previous agreement between the ECB and Cricket Ireland, England played a biennial ODI in Ireland. Next year they will instead host Ireland at Bristol, on May 5, and Lord's, on May 7, as part of their build up to the Champions Trophy. The development is a further boost for Ireland as they seek greater engagement with Full Members and a calendar that can help them challenge for World Cup qualification via the ODI rankings.
Ireland's captain, William Porterfield, who has led calls for more opportunities for his side, described the series as "absolutely massive", while Warren Deutrom, Cricket Ireland's chief executive, thanked the ECB for helping to bring it about. Ireland are also due to host New Zealand and Bangladesh for a six-match triangular series in May 2017.
"We would like to extend our sincere thanks to ECB for their support in bringing this series to fruition and, in particular, giving us the opportunity to play a two-match series in England for the first time," Deutrom said. "Rounding the series off at Lord's will, of course, make this truly memorable for everyone involved.
"We have set out our stall to make cricket a mainstream sport in Ireland and perhaps one measure of that is for the Blarney Army, whether living in Ireland or England, to arrive in their thousands to paint the Home of Cricket green in front of a worldwide TV audience."
England were Ireland's opponents in their first ODI, in Belfast in 2006, and they have met twice in World Cups but this move signals a greater degree of commitment from the ECB to helping their Associate neighbour. It is understood that part of the decision for England to host the games was in order to save Cricket Ireland the set-up costs.
"This series will represent a historic stepping stone in the development of Irish cricket and give further impetus to the growth of the game in Ireland as a whole," the ECB's chief executive, Tom Harrison, said. "There's always been a friendly local rivalry between Ireland and England on the sporting field and this is a great opportunity for cricket matches between the two countries to enjoy even greater status and profile."
Ireland recently played a two-match series against Sri Lanka and will host Afghanistan and Pakistan this summer, before playing ODIs against South Africa and Australia later in the year. They were added to the ICC ODI rankings last year, giving them a chance to secure automatic qualification for the 2019 World Cup by reaching the top eight, but had struggled to arrange a competitive fixture list.
England had previously only played one-off fixtures against Ireland, in Belfast once again in 2009, then at Clontarf, in Dublin, two years later, followed by matches in 2013 and 2015 at Ireland's new home, Malahide. Ireland's only win over England came at the 2011 World Cup, when they pulled off the highest successful chase in the competition's history in Bangalore
"It's absolutely massive for us to have the opportunity to play against England in a series," Porterfield said. "What makes it extra special is the fact that one of the games is at Lord's - where every cricketer dreams of playing.
"I'm certain we'll have a lot of support there from both the Irish living in London and travelling over from Ireland. There'll be a great atmosphere and it will be one which the team will relish playing in front of.
"Teams travelling to play England are also coming over here now to play series too so hopefully that trend will continue. We are getting more and more international fixtures with games against Pakistan, Afghanistan, Australia and South Africa still to come this year, and England, Bangladesh and New Zealand confirmed already for next year."