Ireland to face Australia A side in four-day contest

Ireland will play an Australia A team in a four-day game as part of their visitors' preparations for next summer's Ashes series against England.

The match has been pencilled in for 14-17 June, with the venue to be decided.

The touring Australian side is expected to feature many of the Test stars who are not involved in the ICC Champions Trophy.

Ricky Ponting is a strong candidate to captain Australia, who will be keen to get in some important match practice.

Players of the calibre of Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon, Ed Cowan and Usman Khawaja also likely to be involved.

Cricket Ireland Performance Director Richard Holdsworth welcomed the news, saying: "It's a tremendous boost for all involved with Irish cricket that we've secured such a high profile first-class fixture in Ireland.

"The fact that the Australian XI will contain a number of high-profile test cricketers means it's sure to attract a large crowd.

"It will be a great test of our cricketers and I'm sure they will acquit themselves well against opponents who will be determined to put in a strong showing ahead of the Ashes campaign.

"We've haven't finalised a venue for the prestigious game yet, but have plenty of options to choose from.

"This match is one of a number of international games we've lined up for 2013 which is shaping up to be one of our busiest and most exciting seasons to date."

Ireland has played only one previous first-class fixture against an Australian side, when they lost by five wickets at Rathmines in 1998.

Current Australian international Mike Hussey scored an unbeaten 125 in that game, in which Ed Joyce also played.

Interestingly, Steve Waugh played for Ireland in the match, top scoring in the Irish second innings with 45 after being forced to follow-on.