THE standing ovation Ireland received at Lord’s on Saturday when last man Graham Hume struck the boundary that ensured England would have to bat again before winning the one-off Test match by 10 wickets was not only deserved but recognised something deeper.

Most of the large crowd were there to cheer on the home team but they also wanted to see a contest between bat and ball and they got exactly that as Mark Adair and Andy McBrine posted Ireland’s highest partnership in seven Tests played.

The seventh-wicket pair added 163 and while Adair was caught behind on 88 and McBrine was stranded 14 short of his century when the innings closed, Ireland had shown for the first time in the game that they could compete with one of the best teams in the world.

If the innings had folded quickly on the third morning, there would have been questions as to whether Ireland should be invited back in four years’ time, with this Test set to become the traditional apéritif to the Ashes series against Australia.

The first two days were excruciatingly embarrassing for those in green - on and off the field - as what had looked a popgun attack was exposed as lacking even a pop, by a strong England batting line-up.

In two Tests in Sri Lanka in April, and this third at Lord’s, Ireland have managed to take just 13 wickets while conceding 1,819 runs.

There are mitigating circumstances - the absence of Josh Little and injuries to Craig Young, Barry McCarthy and Conor Olphert - but to start winning Test matches Ireland need to find a bowling attack that can regularly take 20 wickets.

Easier said than done, of course, although hosting home Tests on pitches conducive to those bowlers available is one avenue and finding an accommodation for talented but ‘difficult’ characters like Clontarf speedster David Delany would be another.

England could also help improve the competitiveness of their neighbours by allowing Ireland players to represent county sides again, without being restricted in the ‘overseas’ class.

Why would a rival team do that? Well, there were 20,000 plus at Lord’s for each of the three days - making Ireland a bigger draw than other ‘smaller’ teams like Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and possibly even Sri Lanka - but many of those fans won’t keep coming back to watch a punishment beating.

Even an agreement to feature promising youngsters like Tim Tector and Matthew Humphreys in the Second XI championship would be a huge step forward.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a priority for England to have Irish cricketers playing in their system,” skipper Andy Balbirnie said.

“Once you become a Full Member of the ICC playing Tests you have to develop your own cricketers who can compete at this level - and that’s fine. 

“Not having that structure in place at the moment is not great for our lads, they need to be playing red-ball cricket at home.”

The first-class domestic competition is set to return next season when Cricket Ireland receive a major funding boost from the ICC but it’s only one piece of the puzzle.