<
>

Ireland domestic competition awarded first-class status

John Bracewell is optimistic about Ireland's future after the awarding of first-class status to its domestic competition Getty Images/Sportsfile

Ireland's domestic four-day competition, the Hanley Energy Inter-Provincial Championship, has been awarded first-class status - and the country's T20 and 50-over competitions have been elevated to List A - following the ICC board meeting in Cape Town this week.

Ireland, who earlier this year launched an ambitious five-year plan aimed at ridding the game of its elitist perceptions and putting it on a par with football, rugby and GAA among Irish sports fans, now have a competition that John Bracewell, the national coach, believes can help to drive the sport to the next level.

"First-class cricket is the vital link between part-time cricket and the full commitment of the international game," said Bracewell.

"It is connected to your value in world cricket, historically. This to me is key for Irish-based players willing to make the sacrifices necessary to reach the standards required to compete at the pinnacle of our sport.

"Over the last two seasons watching domestic cricket in Ireland I have seen consistent performances from top quality cricketers who deserve to have these recognised. The standard of play is not only highly competitive but also first class in its output."

Cricket Ireland CEO Warren Deutrom, who was in South Africa when the decision was announced, outlined the importance of the decision to award first-class status to the Irish domestic game.

"It's important as firstly, it elevates the perception of the competition, and places the inter-pros statistically and status-wise at the same level of all first-class cricket around the world in established Test nations.

"At the moment, the matches, while hard-fought, are no more than friendlies, so even monumental performances such as Nick Larkin's 247 not out and Adam Dennison's 206 [both for the Northern Knights] count for nothing in the game's statistical records.

"Bestowing first-class status places these achievements in the game's official records and allows players to start accumulating career statistics, and puts them in the shop-window for opportunities overseas. These same opportunities can also now apply to the officials standing in these matches."

The competition, which has been running in its current form for four seasons, involves three teams - Northern Knights, North West Warriors and Leinster Lightning - and Deutrom outlined the significance of the decision as Ireland push for higher recognition in the sport.

"Playing first-class domestic cricket is a significant milestone on our long-stated journey to become a Test nation and is what the full members do - if we want to be considered among the front rank of nations, then so must we."

John Anderson, the captain of Leinster Lightning who completed a domestic treble this year, was clearly delighted at the competiton's elevation.

"It's great news and indicative of the standard of cricket that is on show in the competition. The games provide a shop window for all players to show-case their skills and has provided me with a stepping stone to play international cricket.

David Richardson, the ICC chief executive, said: "Cricket Ireland's Inter-Provincial Championship is well structured and provides a clear pathway for players from under-age through to inter-provincial to the national team.

"The Championship is professionally run, played mainly in international standard venues and some games are live streamed and I'd like to commend Cricket Ireland on the work they have done to achieve first class domestic status."