Tour review

England v Ireland in 2019

Hugh Chevallier

Test match (1): England 1, Ireland 0

Ten days earlier, an Irishman had raised the World Cup to an ecstatic Lord's. But Eoin Morgan was captain of England, and it felt as if, at least for 2019, that might be as close as Irish cricket came to glory. Not a bit of it. On a scorching July morning, Tim Murtagh - 13 seasons a mucker of Morgan's at Middlesex - gave an undercooked England a roasting, all out for 85. No one knew this ground like he did; no one had taken a cheaper Test five-for at Lord's than his five for 13. Though he could not engineer perhaps the biggest Test upset of all, his control was sublime. Not brisk, not brazen, not brash, Murtagh destroyed England - just as Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes did Ireland 48 hours later.

Ireland had every right to be fired up. Unwanted at the World Cup because the ICC preferred to milk the cash cows of Indian and English cricket rather than cultivate the wider 50-over game; up againsta weakened team; and given only a four-day Test, they responded in a manner befitting the most eloquent of nations. This was the first Test in England scheduled for fewer than five days since 1949, and only the second, after South Africa v Zimbabwe in December 2017, since the ICC sanctioned a reduced duration - as long as both sides agreed.

Much of the talk beforehand was about which of England's white-ball heroes would be fit and willing to return to St John's Wood. Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Adil Rashid opted for rest, while Jofra Archer and Mark Wood were nursing side strains. Happy to play were Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow (Test captain and Test keeper), Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali, whose iffy form had seen him dropped from the second half of the World Cup. Jason Roy, named as an opener in the team of the tournament, joined his Surrey colleague Rory Burns at the top of the order. Might they see off the new ball more effectively than the myriad combinations tried by England since the retirement of Andrew Strauss in 2012? Their other debutant was Olly Stone,capable of 90mph, but worryingly injury-prone. His opportunity arose because Jimmy Anderson had not fully recovered from a torn calf muscle. Jack Leach and Sam Curran were given the chance to reinvigorate fledgling Test careers. Somerset's Lewis Gregory was also in the squad, but missed out on a Test debut.

Ireland had endured a narrow defeat at home by Pakistan 14 months before, and a heavier one by Afghanistan in India in March 2019. ThoseTests were in Malahide and Dehradun, so this was an altogether bigger stage. Intriguingly, though, the Irish had more first-class appearances at Lord's than England: helped by Murtagh and Paul Stirling being Middlesex regulars, they edged it 93-88. Most of their side had county experience, including debutant seamer Mark Adair who - like the captain, William Porterfield - had turned out for Warwickshire.

The six England players uninvolved in theWorld Cup had all recently taken part in first-class matches. Not so the Irish, whose red-ball preparation amounted to a two-day game against Middlesex Seconds at Merchant Taylors' School, Northwood; Ireland were unable to bat because of rain. But for much of the Test, it felt as if England were the novices.

© John Wisden & Co.