One-off Test, Day One: England (152-1, 25 overs) (Ben Duckett 60*, Zak Crawley 56; Fionn Hand 1-42) trail Ireland (172 all out, 56.2 overs) (James McCollum 36; Stuart Broad 5-51) by 20 runs.
The dreaded mismatch that this Test at Lord’s threatened to become took shape in brutal fashion on day one of the one-off clash between England and Ireland. Asked to bat first under cloudy skies at St John’s Wood, likely the hardest conditions for batting all week, Ireland could only muster 172 all out as England raced to 152-1 at the close in response, trailing by just 20.
The fear around this Irish side was coming into this game was that a bowling attack that struggled on a recent tour of the subcontinent would be put to the sword on a flatter track in English conditions. That said, there was some form with the bat that suggested Ireland could at least compete on that front.
The former prediction rang true towards the back end of the day, but, disastrously for Ireland, the bats failed to fire in a grim opening session that at one stage saw them reduced to 19-3. A day of frustration was characterised by Irish batters getting themselves out – despite the laudable efforts of Stuart Broad who recorded a 20th Test match five-wicket haul.
“It’s more disappointment around the way we went about our business than being that tough,” admitted head coach Heinrich Malan after play. “If you look at some of our dismissals there are some soft dismissals and the way we bowled at the back end, we didn’t cover ourselves in glory. There’s a bit of self-reflection going on in there at the minute and hopefully tomorrow we can put on a better exhibition.
“A guy that’s got 600 test wickets [Broad] is a decent bowler, [but] it wasn’t unplayable.”
Of the 10 Irish dismissals, only a handful at the end can really say they were offered genuinely excellent deliveries that led to their demise. The first wicket of the day, that of PJ Moor, came when his tactic of shifting across his off stump backfired when his pad got in the way of a straight delivery.
Captain Andrew Balbirnie nicked a delivery outside off, while two balls later Harry Tector fell into a leg side trap, instinctively following a nip-backer from Broad, middling it to leg slip. The next delivery, Broad continued to use the slope to his advantage to rap Paul Stirling on the pad only for the LBW decision to be correctly overturned on review.
Stirling countered with a series of punches off Potts, but a decision to sweep the spinner Jack Leach with fielders back for the shot and the straight men up led to a glove which was snaffled by Jonny Bairstow. It spelled the end of his mini-fightback with James McCollum who proved somewhat resolute in his 108-ball effort of 36 – the highlight a gorgeous drive through cover.
Lorcan Tucker departed when in two minds as to sweep or dance down the track, in the end doing neither and seeing a somewhat unlucky LBW decision upheld on umpire’s call. Curtis Campher, who played nicely with his drives and when surviving a short ball barrage, danced down and played across the line, missing it entirely to give Leach his third. Three dismissals for Leach on a non-turning day one pitch should lead to questions.
“The guys at the top of the order are disappointed,” acknowledged Malan. “They wanted to go out at the home of cricket and put on a show.”
Once Ireland were bowled out in the 57th over, England had plenty of the evening session to make hay in the sunshine. That they did, Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett both bringing up half-centuries in the 16th over, the former off just 39 balls.
The barrage was somewhat stemmed when debutant Fionn Hand took a sharp return catch off his own bowling to remove Crawley and earn his first Test scalp, but England still looked comfortable as they eased their way to the close.
“I’ve always spoken since I took this job about how you’ve got to have a bit of X-factor around our attack,” said Malan of his bowlers’ struggles. “We have to be extremely disciplined with the attack we have.”
With the likes of Joe Root, Harry Brook, Ben Stokes and Bairstow still to come, and England just 20 runs short with nine wickets remaining, Ireland will have to be more than just disciplined to bounce back with any sort of vengeance on day two.