Ireland look to push England all the way in Lord's Test
Ireland return to Lords on Thursday as they take on England in a test match for the first time since their first ever test match at the home of cricket in 2019.
Many had written Ireland’s chances off before the first ball had been bowled but just before Lunch England who had elected to bat first after winning the toss were all out for just 85 after 23.4 overs.
Middlesex man Tim Murtagh playing on his home ground became the first Irish cricketer to take a five-wicket haul in a test match, Mark Adair who made his test debut for Ireland picked up three wickets while Boyd Rankin took two as Ireland made light work of England’s batting order.
Ireland made a good start with the bat as they looked to take control of the historic test match. Andrew Balbirnie (55) and Paul Stirling (36) were key to Ireland’s first innings, but Ireland were all out for 207 just before the end of the day and had a lead of 122 over the hosts with 20 wickets falling on the first day England would begin their second innings in the final over of the day as Murtagh bowled an excellent maiden over to cap an excellent day for himself and Ireland.
On Day two, England fought back and nightwatchman Jack Leach who would be one of England’s heroes in that summer's Ashes series scored 92 while Jason Roy was also a thorn in Ireland’s side as he scored 72 as England frustrated Ireland and took a lead of 181 runs into the third day after lightning ended day two prematurely.
Murtagh (1), Adair (3), Rankin (2), three wickets from Stuart Thompson and some good work from Kevin O’Brien to run-out Joe Denly meant Ireland had a golden chance to pull off one of the biggest shocks ever in test cricket, needing just 182 runs to win with a day and half left in the match.
Rain had interrupted Ireland’s second innings just after the first over. When the covers came off and the players came back out, Ireland went from dreamland to living a nightmare as they were skittled and bowled out for a measly 38.
James McCollum stopped scored with just 11 runs as Ireland collapsed under the pressure of a fired-up England as well as the difficult conditions the weather had caused.
The firepower and experience of Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes rattled Ireland as Broad took four wickets while Woakes took an impressive six wickets to leave Ireland deflated and England relieved as they won by 143 runs.
Since that famous test match, Ireland have only played two other test matches, after waiting four years to play test cricket in April they played and lost in Bangladesh by seven wickets in a one-off test match, before losing 2-0 in two match series against Sri Lanka.
Harry Tector and Lorcan Tucker have been two of the standout players with the bat for Ireland against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and will need to be on form as they take on a strong England side. While the experienced Irish captain Andrew Balbirnie will also be a key figure in Ireland’s batting line-up .
Adair is due to lead the bowling attack against England, but he won’t be the only dangerous threat in Ireland’s attack, Andrew McBrine, Ben White, Curtis Campher proved their worth in those two series and England will be aware of the threat Ireland’s attack poses on Ben Stokes men.
Alongside Stokes, England’s 16-man squad includes some big names including Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root as well as Zak Crawley Ollie Pope. England boast a strong bowling attack which includes the ever-reliable James Anderson and the duo that ripped through Ireland’s batting order in their second innings in 2019, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes.
England will see this one-off test match as the perfect warm up ahead of this summer Ashes series that begins in a few weeks as they look to generate some momentum against an improved Irish test side, although the lack of test match action could highlight Ireland’s test match frailties as they take on England who have enjoyed a resurgence in red ball cricket recently.
A solid 10 wicket warm-up match win against Essex at the start of May gave Ireland a boost going into Thursday’s test match. With Essex boasting four guest Irish players including Adair it allowed Tom Mayes and Graham Hume to star with the ball before James McCollum (100) and Peter Moor (118) and the 14 extras added to Ireland’s total saw them chase down the 232 run target without losing a wicket.
Ireland are still after their first-ever win in test match cricket and have chance of pulling off a shock or at the very least ensuring England are pushed all the way over the four day test match.
Ireland’s batting coach Gary Wilson stressed last week it was up to Ireland to trust in their ability and show the cricketing world what they can do. It’s hard to argue with that, Ireland will need to cope with the pressure of playing at Lords once more but this time the walk from the changing room and through the long rooms is something that they have experienced before.
After learning a harsh lesson after victory was in their sights in 2019 and gaining test match experience against Ireland go into the match against England knowing what they need to do to secure that first ever test match victory.
Despite being winless in the red ball format so far, Wilson is optimistic ahead of Thursday's game.
"I think the lads have got a chance, there is no doubt that we have to play our best cricket and England maybe have to be slightly off - they have got some phenomenal players - but we are here to compete and try to win."
Wilson added, “We will be working as hard as we possibly can to get a favourable result and, with the skill level that the players have shown in all forms of the game over the last 24 months, I've no doubt that they will be able to handle the toughest of opponents, which England will obviously be.
"There has been a lot of chat about the way England are playing now but if we try to play our game and back our skill level, which has been very high, then we definitely have a chance."