FOUR months ago Ireland’s rugby players recorded a momentous win over South Africa in Cape Town. But Ireland’s cricketers could emerge from the city this week with a result that will live even longer in the sport’s memory.

Although it was the first country to which the English exported the game, Ireland has never been included among the elite nations, and thus permitted to play the five-day Test format. That could be about to change.

Tomorrow, in one of the Western Cape’s finest hotels, the men of the International Cricket Council meet for one of the quarterly meetings at which they dictate the direction of their sport.

They’ve had a lot to mull recently, with the plan to divide test cricket into two divisions of seven and five teams being shelved. But with that came the realisation among the game’s elite that it needs to expand or die. The talk now is that two Associates will be invited to the top table.

It has been a long battle for Cricket Ireland’s CEO, Warren Deutrom, who has been pushing the Irish case in the corridors of power for a decade now. He is circumspect about talking about the apparently imminent success, but admits he detects a change in the mood music.

He is also confident Ireland can respond to the challenge if the elevation is granted.

“If it were to happen we would expect to have a honeymoon period, but we have shown we can stage big events and get big crowds to come, such as the 10,000 that watched England in Malahide.

“Countries like New Zealand have moved tests away from stadiums to smaller grounds, where 4-5,000 people can watch, with some sitting on grassy banks. The novelty factor will bring people along, but the fact that we would be playing games with real context would be a draw.”

The ICC plan could see every team meeting at least once in a six-year period, which would mean perhaps two home Tests each Irish summer. The elevation would mean access to lucrative TV deals and an increased professionalisation of the sport.

Ironically, Cricket Ireland is probably less equipped to deal with Test cricket on-field than it was in the glory years. Key retirements were followed by some bad T20 defeats to Hong Kong and Oman, and ODI hidings to Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Despite those woes, and an ageing side, Ireland have four wins from four in the four-day InterContinental Cup, and the top two in this table are expected to get those golden tickets. The games against Afghanistan in March and Netherlands next summer will decide Ireland’s fate.

But before then, they will follow closely events at the Cape of Good Hope where Ireland’s Ross McCollum is now on the ICC board.

“I won't be surprised if decisions are deferred until February”, adds Deutrom. “These potential changes are so fundamental to the game that it is preferable time is taken to bring as many as possible along, rather than shooting too high, too early and missing.”