Ireland v Pakistan

Former Ashes quick set for 25-year first

Irishman could follow in the footsteps of Kepler Wessels if selected for one-off Test against Pakistan

Adam Burnett

9 May 2018, 11:17 AM AEST

Paceman Boyd Rankin is poised to become the 15th man ever and the first since Kepler Wessels 25 years ago to play Test cricket for two nations when Ireland take on Pakistan in Dublin from Friday.

Having played white-ball cricket for Ireland early in his career, Rankin turned his back on his country of birth in 2012 to pursue a Test career with England and played the fifth Test in their horror 2013-14 Ashes tour, taking one wicket.

Rankin during the 2014 SCG Ashes Test // Getty
Rankin during the 2014 SCG Ashes Test // Getty

He quickly fell out of favour with England and, having announced in 2015 that he would return to Ireland, it appeared he would finish his career with just one Test cap to his name.

But Ireland were granted Test status last June and Rankin is expected to lead their attack in the historic match against Pakistan this weekend.

If selected, he will be the only member of Ireland's XI to have experienced Test cricket, though batsman Ed Joyce has previously played for England in the ODI format.

Rankin, 33, made his first appearance in Ireland's first-class competition only last week in a bid to enhance his claims for a Test berth, taking four wickets as North-West Warriors dominated a drawn match against Leinster Lightning.

Rankin is back in the green of Ireland // Getty
Rankin is back in the green of Ireland // Getty

Since 1956, only two players - Wessels and John Traicos (South Africa and Zimbabwe) - have played Tests for two countries. Ten men, including Joyce, have done so in one-day internationals and six in T20 internationals.

South African native Wessels famously represented Australia in 24 Tests between 1982 and 1985 when his country was banned from competing in international sports due to Apartheid.

He then captained South Africa in 16 Tests in the post-Apartheid era, including going toe-to-toe across six Tests in 1993-94 with an Australia team led by Allan Border, Wessels' former teammate and captain at state and national level.

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His first taste of international cricket against Australia came in the 50-over format during the 1992 World Cup, an occasion he remembers anticipating with some hesitation.

"When I played for Australia, I fiercely wanted to win," he told recently.

"I was proud to be playing for Australia, and six years down the line, I was at the Sydney Cricket Ground, where I really enjoyed playing and where I'd had a lot of success, and I'm in the opposition.

"Three-quarters of the guys in the Australian team, I'd played with – and suddenly I was in the opposing changeroom.

"I wasn't looking forward to that."

South Africa won the clash by nine wickets and Wessels made an unbeaten 81 to claim player-of-the-match honours.

Dean Jones and Kepler Wessels at the 1992 World Cup // Getty
Dean Jones and Kepler Wessels at the 1992 World Cup // Getty

"I was happy when that game was done. I wasn't looking forward to that at all. Once the game started, it was very competitive, I got caught up in it and that was fine.

"But just the whole emotion of suddenly being in the opposition's dressing room, playing against all these guys you'd played with – that wasn't great.

"But what was really good that night was, it was a full house and the crowd was awesome. There wasn't a bad word said.

"So it turned out well, but I'd be lying if I'd said I wasn't worried."

Whether Rankin will have the opportunity to experience those same feelings as Wessels remains to be seen; an Ireland versus England Test is yet to be scheduled.