Ireland will play their first-ever overseas Test match against Afghanistan in March 2019 in 'a major step forward' for the sport in Ireland, said Andrew Balbirnie on the day that the tour itinerary was released.
The Test match, the first of two that the Ireland Men’s team will play in 2019, is part of a nine-match series against Afghanistan that will include one Test match, five one-day internationals and three T20 internationals. The fixtures will all be played at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium, Dehradun in India.
Dublin-born batsman Balbirnie, 27, who has 86 caps for Ireland, said: "The Afghanistan series is a major step forward for Irish cricket as the tour is our first major tour 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.
"As we saw here at home in the summer, Afghanistan is a quality side with some world-class players, and will be a great challenge in their ‘home’ conditions.
"We are fortunate that Graham Ford [Head Coach] has scheduled a batting camp in December which will provide a number of our batsmen with some exposure to those conditions – it will be particularly beneficial for some of the younger guys like Harry Tector and James McCollum who won’t have experienced Indian pitches.
"The level and regularity of top-quality international cricket this year will be exciting for Irish cricket fans. 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."
"With the retirements this year of Ed Joyce, Niall O’Brien and John Anderson, we know that this is a year that will require the entire squad to step up, and it will also present some of the younger guys with opportunities to stake their claim for national selection. It’s an exciting time to be involved in Irish cricket."