Ireland make the home of cricket a home from home

Porterfield’s side give a far better account of themselves in front of 5,000 Irish at Lord’s

Ireland’s cricketing fans both old and new turned out for the big day out at Lord’s on Sunday, an estimated 5,000 of the 22,000 crowd supporting the visiting side as they went down to an 85-run defeat to England.

Those in the ground witnessed a far superior performance from Friday’s pitiful seven-wicket defeat in Bristol, with the side now returning home for a Tri-Nations series involving New Zealand and Bangladesh that gets underway on Friday.

Friday’s game had ended before 3pm, but this time the crowds that travelled to support Ireland witnessed a game that finished in that wonderful late sunlight that brings out the best in this beautiful sporting amphitheatre. The shadows of the Grandstand were slowly making their way towards the the square as Ireland’s tailenders pushed their reply to 243 after England had posted a total of 328 for six having been put into bat.

The late evening glow was a sharp contrast from the early morning chill of a May morning in north-west London. The Irish supporters arrived in from the airports wrapped up against the cold but the layers were gradually torn off as the mercury rose to reveal forty shades of green - old Irish cricket shirts, newer luminous varieties, rugby and soccer jerseys and county colours of every shade and hue.


This was Ireland making the ‘Home of Cricket’ a home from home for the day.

Tim Murtagh made the most of his local knowledge to tie down the England openers, while Barry McCarthy proved a point after missing out on Friday's loss in Bristol by taking a wicket in his first over. The young Durham all-rounder bowled wonderfully, his figures suffering late on as England bashed 99 off the last 49 deliveries as Jonny Bairstow and Adil Rashid made hay as the sun came out to shine.

And a former Irish cricketing son also shone as England skipper Eoin Morgan made use of the short boundaries to set the foundations for his side's total of 328 for six.

After Murtagh and McCarthy had removed England's openers, Morgan and Joe Root put on 140 for the third wicket, the deciding partnership of the game. The Irish fans did their best, but sporting hymns borrowed from other codes soon faded out after hearty beginnings.

Porterfield rotated his bowlers throughout and the breakthrough finally arrived when Root holed out to Andy Balbirnie off the bowling of Peter Chase for 73. Morgan followed soon to Murtagh for 76, thanks to a wonderful athletic catch from 38-year-old Ed Joyce at short extra-cover, the Rush native missing out on the chance of a second ODI century against the country of his birth.

Fresh from a career-best 174 for Yorkshire on Wednesday, Bairstow came in and gave it a whirl alongside Adil Rashid, the pair adding 88 in 46 balls to push the score over 300 - finally settling on 328 for six.

It only meant that Ireland had to repeat their heroics from six years’ ago in Bangalore and make 329 on a good wicket, with a vocal travelling support behind them.

They were certainly vocal on the Nursery Ground as a band belted out traditional Irish tunes during the interval as the crowds took over every blade of grass. The obligatory lap of the ground took longer than usual, with cricketing comrades catching up to share stories, the bars doing a roaring trade as the queues snaked around the famous old stands.

They were soon queuing to get back back to their seats as cheers rose around the ground as Paul Stirling took to the English bowling as enthusiastically as the punters had wolfed down their lunchtime picnics and burgers.

Playing on his home patch the 26-year old opener hit David Willey’s first three deliveries for boundaries to get Ireland off to the perfect start. A Stirling innings is all duck or no dinner and it looked like the plum sauce would be coming out when he pushed through what he refers the ‘nervous 30s’ towards a half-century.

He fell two short of that in the end, the faintest of edges showing up on the Ultraedge review from a Jake Ball delivery.

Porterfield was building a captain’s innings to remember but Ireland’s hopes really dropped once Kevin O’Brien departed following a cameo that had hints of his Bangalore knock after a few big sixes.

Porterfield was Ireland's final hope but an ambitious attempt at a ramp shot ended with a rearranged set of stumps as he was bowled by Mark Wood for 82.

George Dockrell took advantage of time in the middle to hit 28 before Wood came back to end the match with the first delivery of the 47th over.

The Irish supporters stayed until the end, lapping up the late evening sunshine

as they contemplated a historic day for Irish cricket. Hopefully a vote next month in London will open the gate to many more.

Emmet Riordan

Emmet Riordan

Emmet Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist