Perhaps they were still on their World Cup honeymoon. Perhaps they were jaded and had not recovered from the hangover of their maiden World Cup victory. But England has been served a wake-up call in their one-off Test against Ireland at Lord’s.
After opting to bat first on a surface that had a slight tinge of grass, England were jolted by the Irish bowlers and were completely caught napping against their discipline and skills. Tim Murtagh, especially, was brilliant and produced a sensational spell of seam bowling to shoot England out for just 85 in 23.4 overs. Murtagh ended up with 5-13 in only 9 overs – the quickest ever in terms of deliveries bowled in a Test at Lord’s.
England were clearly caught napping as Ireland exploited the conditions superbly well by bowling tight channels and getting the ball to move just that much to trouble the batsmen. This collapse is now the 4th instance since 2016 where England has been bowled out inside a session. With the Ashes barely a week away, these are ominous signs.
By the end of the first day of the match, Ireland had been bowled out for 207 and England, in their second innings, are now trailing by 122 runs. Irrespective of how this match goes, Ireland have shown a lot of heart and skills to shock one of the strongest batting lineups in their own backyard.
Lest one forget this is Ireland’s third international Test match and they are still extremely inexperienced in the rigors of the longest format. And yet, they have displayed superb gumption and an ability to do well at the highest level. This bodes well for Ireland’s future and if they keep getting more opportunities to play the longest format in different conditions they will only get better.
In William Porterfield, Ireland has an experienced batsman and a mature leader. He is a solid top-order batsman with an experience of 266 List A games and 134 First- class matches. Porterfield can be the rock for the team going ahead and the others can revolve around him. The likes of Andrew Balbirnie, Paul Stirling and Kevin O Brien form a decent batting order that has the ability to fight against the best.
O Brien’s scintillating 118 against Pakistan in Ireland’s first ever Test was testimony of the skills the Irish posses. The hundred came when Ireland where following-on and O Brien’s hundred helped save Ireland the blushes and even gave them a chance later on in the game.
With a bowling unit that has shown terrific quality Ireland can really push their weight around in Test cricket if their batsman can learn to adapt to different conditions and fight it out.
Regardless of how things go in the ongoing Test match against England, one must remember Ireland is still so new to the world of Test cricket. They deserve more opportunities and other cricket boards must strive to help them grow and invite them to play in their countries. With Zimbabwe having been suspended by the ICC for now, world cricket desperately needs more lower-ranked teams making their name in the Test format. Ireland can be the new team which can leave its imprint in cricket’s longest format. All they need is proper grooming and experience.