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Murtagh ready to embrace home from home at Lord's

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'If I bowl to him, it's another wicket' (3:41)

Middlesex's Steven Finn and Tim Murtagh reveal how they plan to dismiss each other when England and Ireland clash in ODIs at Bristol and Lord's (3:41)

Ireland may have been waiting a decade for an invite to play England in England, and on the sport's grandest stage of all, but their cricketers could be forgiven for feeling a touch over-familiar with their surroundings as they walk through the Long Room at Lord's for the second ODI of an historic maiden series.

After all, Tim Murtagh, Ireland's opening bowler, claimed 43 wickets at 28.53 in Middlesex's Championship-winning campaign last summer. That haul included five in the title showdown against Yorkshire at Lord's in September, when he was given special dispensation by Cricket Ireland to arrive late for their tour of South Africa.

In addition, a raft of senior Ireland batsmen have gained vital professional experience on Middlesex's books. Among them Paul Stirling, Andy Balbirnie, Ed Joyce and, of course, the one who got away - England's current ODI captain, Eoin Morgan, whose first proper airing on the world stage came during Ireland's stunning run to the Super Eights at the 2007 World Cup.

Whether such prior knowledge of the visitors has played any part in some impressive ticket sales for the Lord's match in particular is a moot point - but something close to a 22,000 sell-out is anticipated, and there's no question that the exploits of a formative generation of players has a lot to do with the interest in what may otherwise have been a slightly low-key opening to the English season.

"The chance to play England at Lord's is pretty special," Murtagh said during a Royal London event in Belgravia. "I hope it will be an unusual Lord's crowd, quite boisterous and getting behind us. Any time that ground is full, it is pretty special.

"The fact that this is two games and not just one is great," he added. "It's recognition of Irish cricket, and the ECB have been supportive of Irish cricket over the last few years. They have spoken up for us at ICC board meetings, they are helping us develop, so it's been a good relationship."

That bonhomie between boards hasn't always been quite so apparent, however. In fact, the attitude of the previous ECB regime could be politely described as stand-offish. The two sides' inaugural ODI encounter came more than a decade ago at Stormont in 2006 (when, as if to typify the prevailing attitude towards their international claims, Joyce was selected to make his debut … for England). But back then, and for the subsequent decade, their one-off biennial fixture was never much more than a sop, even after Ireland's stunning victory in Bangalore during the 2011 World Cup.

Times are, however, just threatening to change. Last week's ICC board meeting in Dubai nudged Ireland one step closer to the holy grail of Test status, and while Warren Deutrom, their chief executive, hailed that prospect as "transformational", Murtagh knows enough about cricket's complex politics not to get his hopes up too soon.

"All the noises are very positive and encouraging for us in terms of Test cricket," he said. "But with the ICC you are never quite sure until everything has been finally agreed. They keep saying it will happen and then it gets put back to another meeting, so you are never quite sure. But it is definitely closer than it has ever been before and, if that happens, it will be a great opportunity to play Test cricket and grow the game in Ireland.

"This is something we have worked hard towards in terms of setting up a first-class structure. We feel we are ready - obviously it's going to be tough and results might not be what you would want initially, but that has happened to every Test nation that first comes into the Test arena. We are ready for it and looking forward to it."

The pity for Ireland, for all that this week is undoubtedly a cause for celebration, is that their England invitation has arrived at a time when they may struggle to match the standards that they have worked so hard to raise. The team that transformed the horizons for Irish cricket is beginning to drift apart, and in the wake of a chastening series loss to Afghanistan in March, Murtagh is realistic about the team's current status.

"There is a slight transitional phase for Irish cricket," he said. "We lost some big players in the dressing room. Trent Johnson, who captained for a long time, was a very under-rated cricketer and a real driving force behind Irish cricket, and we've also lost John Mooney and Alex Cusack in the last few years.

"We have some good younger guys - Craig Young, Peter Chase, up-and-coming young bowlers - but they are quite raw at the moment, so it is going to take them a bit of time to get up to speed. There's definitely some exciting young players in Irish cricket, but the results in the last couple of years haven't been as good as they were in the few years previously to that."

Nevertheless, the chance to take on England in a full series - not to mention New Zealand and Bangladesh in the forthcoming tri-series on home soil - is one that Ireland's cricketers will gladly grasp, as they embark on yet another small step along the road to recognition.

Steven Finn and Tim Murtagh were speaking on behalf of Royal London, proud sponsors of one-day cricket, ahead of the upcoming ODI matches against Ireland.