DUBLIN: Ireland will begin their first overseas Test match on St Patrick’s Day — March 17 — when they take on Afghanistan next year, in what will be a second Test outing for both of the game’s newest senior nations. The Test will be the culmination of a nine-match itinerary, which will also include three T20Is on February 23, 24 and 26, and five ODIs on March 2, 4, 7, 9 and 12 – all in the northern India city of Dehra Dun, Afghanistan’s home from home. Both teams made their Test debuts in 2018, with Ireland taking on Pakistan in Malahide in May, before Afghanistan played India at Bangalore in June. “Afghanistan are a quality side with world-class players – it’ll be a great challenge in their ‘home’ conditions,” said the Ireland batsman, Andrew Balbirnie. “The Afghanistan series is a major step forward for Irish cricket as the tour is the first one as a Full Member. It will no doubt be a Test for the entire squad — taking on Afghanistan in subcontinent conditions will require a level of adjustment by both our batting and bowling units.” For Afghanistan, the limited-overs leg of the tour will form part of their preparations for next year’s World Cup – a tournament for which they qualified in remarkable circumstances in Zimbabwe last year. Ireland missed out on that showpiece event, but their highlight of 2018 promises to be a maiden Test match against England at Lord’s in July, a four-day affair that will form part of their hosts’ preparations for the Ashes which get underway on August 1. “The level and regularity of top-quality international cricket in 2019 will be exciting for Irish cricket fans,” said Balbirnie. “The year will start with this Afghanistan series, and will involve a busy home schedule of matches involving multiple Full Member nations – starting with an ODI against England at Malahide in May. “There’s also the Lord’s Test against England in July, and the year will end with the T20 World Cup Qualifier tournament in October.” Published in Daily Times, December 2nd 2018.