William Porterfield says his ICC Combined Associate & Affiliate XI are desperate to give England a stern examination in their warm-up match in Dubai.
Ireland captain Porterfield leads out a side featuring players from five of the ICC’s Associate nations for a three-day clash against Andrew Strauss’ number one ranked Test side, starting on January 7.
Porterfield, also a former MCC Young Cricketer, has played a key role in an Ireland side whose success has helped significantly raise the profile of the non-Test nations.
The 27-year-old batsman played in Ireland’s famous World Cup win over England in 2011.
While repeating the trick over three days will be a harder task, Porterfield believes his players are ready to make the most of their unique chance.
“It’s a big occasion,” he said. “It’s not every day you get to play against the best team in the world and we’re looking to put on a good show and get a result from the game.
“ICC Associate members have been crying out for a long time for a game like this to come along and for it to finally arrive is good to see.
“The lads want to go out there and put in good personal performances as well as for the team.
“It’s a pretty easy game to get up for because we’re playing against the number one side in Test cricket and it is a chance to impress in a longer format.
"Everyone in the squad is pretty relaxed though and we’re in a good frame of mind. We’re just looking to get out there now and put in a good performance.”
While Ireland have consistently proven themselves as worthy opponents in the shorter forms of the game, opportunities to be tested in white clothing are rare.
But the Combined XI could prove a stepping stone for the top Associate players, frustrated at being restricted to the level below Test status.
“I think this combined side is definitely a way forward. At the minute there’s no associates getting to that Test level, there’s a lot of knocking on the door but there’s a long way to go towards getting Test status.
“If we can push for longer games against the big teams then it is definitely a way the ICC can go with the development programme.
“There are a lot of good Associate cricketers out there.”
Porterfield’s squad includes three fellow Irish internationals and three Afghan players – two of whom (Mohammad Nabi and Hamid Hassan) spent time alongside Porterfield on the MCC YC staff.
And the Irish skipper, a regular for Warwickshire in the English County Championship, is hugely impressed with the progress of the Afghan players, and their team as a whole.
"Afghan cricket is definitely progressing and they definitely deserve to be here in this team,” he added.
“Mohammad Shahzad is excellent with the bat and the gloves and Hassan is one of the best bowlers in Associate cricket. They’re only going to get stronger and stronger.”