Howzat!! ICC look set to award Ireland with a Test status for 2019

The first game, could be against England at Lord's that summer

Howzat!! ICC look set to award Ireland with a Test status for 2019

William Porterfield of Ireland Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Presseye/Rowland White

Ireland could be playing Test cricket as early at 2019, with their opening match against England at Lord's.

The Times have reported that the ICC are set to alter their plans for giving associate nations Test status, by welcoming Ireland and Afghanistan to the top table of World cricket.

The ICC had originally planned for the winner's of the Intercontinental Cup to play the lowest ranked Test nation in four five-day matches. A win in the series would give the associate team their Test status, but the Test nation would not be relegated.

Currently, Ireland are top of the Intercontinental Cup after four games, and look set to finish in second place at the very worst. They play Afghanistan in their next match at the end of March 2017.

If Ireland and Afghanistan were to be promoted, they would be the first to gain Test status, since Bangladesh were given the honour in 2000. Ireland would join England at the only European teams in the top-tier of the game.

Test status would allow Ireland the chance to keep hold of their top players. In recent years, Eoin Morgan and Boyd Rankin have both played Test matches for England. Morgan remains within the England one-day setup, while Rankin has returned to Ireland.

The next three years could become the most pivotal in the development of cricket in Ireland.