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England warmed up for The Ashes with a 143 run victory in their first ever Test Match against Ireland. The statistics point to a comfortable England victory achieved in a mere seven sessions of cricket. The reality is Ireland came very close to embarrassing their hosts having played wonderfully well for two days only to be undone by some devastating fast bowling in overcast conditions.
Having finally been granted Test Match status last May, this was only Ireland’s third ever match in the longer form of the game and both their first against their neighbors and a first appearance at Lord’s. England meanwhile rested Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes ahead of The Ashes and handed test debuts to World Cup hero Jason Roy and seamer Ollie Stone.
Ireland Come Close
The match started on Wednesday with all eyes on Roy, but he fluffed his lines and was out for 5 as pace bowler Tim Murtagh made the most of a difficult wicket. However, it seemed England were making serene progress with Rory Burns and Joe Denly. This was until the pair were both dismissed in the space of 5 balls to leave England at 36-3. It started an extraordinary batting collapse, as England lost four more quick wickets including ducks for Moeen Ali and Johnny Bairstow for just 42. Murtagh received excellent support from Boyd Rankin and Mark Adair, as Ireland tore through the top order with only Sam Curran and Stone providing any resistance.
Ireland went into bat with skipper William Porterfield and James McCollum putting on a creditable 45 for the first two wickets. Then came Ireland’s best batsmen in Andrew Balbirnie and Paul Stirling, who took Ireland into the lead. England’s bowling was inconsistent and two missed catches frustrated the efforts of Stuart Broad. However, England began to find their rhythm and a burst from Broad, Stone and Curran saw Ireland reduced from 132-2 to 207 all out; a lead of 122.
With just one over left to play to finish day one, England sent out nightwatchman Jack Leach to protect the batting lineup. On the game’s resumption on Thursday, opener Burns got out early again but Leach stayed put. England moved passed Ireland’s first innings advantage and began establishing a lead of their own, reaching 172 before Roy was bowled by Stuart Thompson.
Shortly after Leach fell agonizingly short of adding his name to The Lords Honors Board when he was caught by Murtagh for 92, it was the cue for another England batting collapse as Denly, Bairstow, Ali and Chris Woakes all went cheaply, as England found themselves at 248-8; a lead of just 126. Curran and Broad lead a revival as they nudged England’s lead to a final tally of 182.
Ireland came out to bat on day three looking to make history, facing a challenging but achievable score. Whereas England had started Ireland’s first innings in a malaise, this time, they flew out of the traps. In favorable overcast conditions, Woakes and Broad got to work. Woakes got the breakthrough by taking the wicket of Porterfield. Then Broad picked up the wicket of the dangerous Balbirnie to reduce Ireland to 18-2. Broad and Woakes then tore through Ireland’s batting lineup with 15.4 overs for 38 runs. Leach deservedly picked up Man of the Match and the opposing teams now face very different issues.
Pride in Defeat for Ireland
Ireland’s hopes of that historic win were snatched away in devastating fashion by Woakes and Broad, as they were blown away for a lowest ever test innings score at Lord’s. That shouldn’t detract from how well Ireland played for two days. They demonstrated in Murtagh, Rankin and Thompson that they have an excellent pace attack, given the right conditions. Although the final result was disappointing, it was a match that illustrated how far this new test nation has come in little over a decade. Few would doubt a match against Ireland or indeed Afghanistan is far better preparation for a four or five-match series than the usual 14-man game against a county level side.
Plenty to ponder for The Ashes
For England, all too familiar batting failings were on show. Burns and Denly won’t have Australia quaking in their boots after hitting just 45 between them. Bairstow kept wicket well, but going for a pair with the bat was concerning. England will inevitably bring back Stokes and Buttler to firm up the middle order, but the top order remains a worry. Roy ultimately played well in his debut, but was better batting at three than as an opener.
With the ball, there was greater cheer for England with Woakes and Broad devastating and Stone looking quick in his debut. Curran also played well with bat and ball, giving the selectors a headache for Edgbaston. With five matches against Australia over just six weeks, England will need a stable of fast bowlers. Mark Wood is out of the immediate reckoning, but with four pacemen looking good here, they have the attack to hurt Australia.
This match will largely be forgotten by English cricket when Australia pitch up at Edgbaston next week. If they find themselves 122 runs down after the first innings, it will be far more difficult to claw their way back.
Featured Image: Getty