William Porterfield intends to give his old boss Ashley Giles a difficult day when Ireland face England in a one-day match in Dublin later this season.
The Ireland captain has plenty of reasons to be thankful to Giles. It was the current England limited-overs coach who brought Porterfield to Edgbaston from Division Two side Gloucestershire in 2011 and always stuck by him before leaving to take the job with the national team last winter.
Giles has started well in his England role, steering them to the final of his first major tournament in charge, the ICC Champions Trophy which ended in a narrow win for India at a packed Edgbaston last Sunday.
The former Bears chief has a passion for winning which will demand that his team makes no mistake in the one-off match with Ireland when the countries meet over 50 overs in the RSA Challenge at Ireland’s new ground at Malahide in North Dublin on September 3.
But Ireland have every incentive to shine that day. And Porterfield is targeting a win to reaffirm his country’s credentials as dangerous opponents to the bigger teams – and constitute another small clause in their case for elevation, ultimately, to full Test match status.
“Victory over England would be massive,” Porterfield said. “Any time that Ireland face England in sport there is always big interest.
“After we beat them in the last World Cup, people who had never had any interest in cricket started to take notice. When I go back now and jump in a taxi, I’ll often have a full-blown conversation about cricket with the taxi-driver. A few years ago, that wouldn’t happen.
“We recently showed again what we can do in the two games against Pakistan when it was frustrating to come out of those without a win, especially tying the first game, having played some really good cricket. It was very pleasing to get ourselves into a winning position against a side like Pakstan rather than just giving them a game. That shows where we are as a team.
“England know the threat we pose but I don’t think anyone takes us lightly any more. The way it is in cricket now, everyone knows everything about everyone so they won’t be taking us lightly. A lot of the Ireland squad play county cricket and Ash has been around the county circuit for a long time so he knows quite a lot about us.
“Hopefully, as a team and a country, we can keep progressing. I think, for Ireland, Test status is definitely a realistic goal. It is not going to happen overnight, we know that. We have set out our strategic plan to play Test cricket by 2020 but seven years is a long time in cricket. We have seen that in the last seven. Look how far we have come on in terms of development of the game in Ireland and as a team.
“There are a lot of steps to be put in place. We need to build up the infrastructure and get a couple of grounds up to the required standard. But we keep ticking ICC boxes as they come up.”
One big source of ballast behind Ireland’s case for Test match status is the considerable interest generated by the sport in the country these days.
And that interest is breaking new areas all the time, reckons Porterfield.
“When I was growing up in Ireland the amount of young people playing the game was great,” he said. “We spent our summers down on the cricket pitch – and now that level of interest is still there and rising.
“The number of people playing since 2007 has more than doubled and we are now getting more into the west and south-west, big Gaelic football territory. The more we can tap into that the better with the transferable skills from hurling to cricket.”
When Ireland meet England in Dublin in September, meanwhile, Porterfield is likely to find himself up against a very familiar face – Bears and former Ireland team-mate Boyd Rankin.
Fast-bowler Rankin is this week with the senior England squad for the two-match T20 series against New Zealand at The Oval, having taken a big step towards his ultimate ambition of playing Test cricket.
That was the aspiration which triggered his retirement from the Ireland scene of which had been a major component for several years.
But while Porterfield admits that losing Rankin is a blow to Irish cricket, he fully understands the reasoning behind the paceman’s decision.
“Boyd wants to play Test cricket and, with the timespan of his career, it’s probably unrealistic that he is going to do that with Ireland,” he said.
“He has had a few injuries over the last few years and with the amount of cricket he has been playing it’s an understandable decision to play for England.
“We wish him all the best in everything he does. There is every chance that he could play against us for England when we play them in an ODI in Dublin in September and that will be a great occasion for him and his family.
“The frustrating thing for us is that we are losing another one of our best players. Boyd is a genuine wicket-taking bowler, the sort a captain craves for, and is a big loss for us.
“But we have young lads snapping at the bit to establish themselves in his place. We are still producing these cricketers and we are just crying out for the ICC to help us on a bigger scale so that we don’t have to lose these guys to England in the future.”