Home Summer 2023 Lord’s Test versus Ireland

Lord’s Test versus Ireland

by Five0

The dying light

A week before this match Jason Roy tore up the remainder of his £70K England contract to take part in a 17 day bash in the new US Major League Cricket competition which will net him £300K. Well, who wouldn’t? There’s nothing new in this. Kevin Pietersen did it in 2015 when Andrew Strauss told him that his England days were over. Chris Gayle and most of what might have been the West Indies Test team have for years been hired guns rather than playing for their country. And Trent Boult ditched New Zealand a year ago. Jason Roy assures us that he really still wants to play for England but like most of the others his international days are coming to an end anyway. We’ll not begrudge any of them some decent pay days. They’ve entertained us pretty well over the years so good luck to them.

However, let’s note that Roy  was signed up by the Los Angeles Knight Riders, so called because they are owned by his  IPL team, Kolkata Knight Riders. Add into the mix that all 6 teams in the new South African T20 league are owned by Indian Premier League teams and we are one step further on the road to the global dominance of the IPL. The prospect increasingly touted is player contracts with the IPL tying them to various franchise leagues throughout the year.

Where will that leave Test cricket? In England, short forms, notably that meaningless cash cow, the Hundred, have pushed the County Championship to the start and finish of the season. The same process means we are about to witness an Ashes series squashed into 46 days with fewer rest days than playing days. The dominance of T20 franchises, turbo-charged by the megarupees of the IPL, is sucking the life out of  Test cricket and squeezing it into an ever narrower window. Here is a chilling observation from  the owner of Rajasthan Royals:  “We can make Test cricket work if we make it more of an event. We should have it at the same time every year, played between a small set of nations that can actually afford it and Lord’s becomes like a Wimbledon, an event that is the diary.”

Is Bazball the last flare from the embers of Test cricket? A rage against the dying of the light? As I walk from Paddington to the ground for my 98th Test match I wonder how many more there will be. I’m taking my grandson to Edgbaston for a day of the Ashes hoping to prove that I am not just a Test match dinosaur and that the flame will pass to a newer generation. I’m not sure. So let’s enjoy it for what it is.

Day 1 Thursday 1 June: Ireland on the rack, already

On a sunny day Irish and I are in situ in our excellent seats in the Lower Grand well ahead of the start slapping on the sun cream. Train delays at the Plymouth end meant that Steve didn’t join us till after lunch.

If there was only likely to be one result to this game, by the end of play after 81 overs it was a cert. There was no repeat of England’s 85 all out scare of 2019 which Irish, Steve and I also witnessed. With no Murtagh in this team to run through England, Ireland look pretty weak. Of the batters McCollum, Balbirnie  and Stirling are survivors from 2019 and McBrine & Adair are still here for the bowlers. England put out a full strength batting line up, if you can call Crawley a strength. The controversial pick was handing the gloves to Jonny Bairstow and dropping Foakes whose only fault is that he’s not Bairstow. There’s plenty of chat about this all day but what do you do? Drop Crawley and make Bairstow open is the only other option. Bowling wise England are so depleted by injuries that Broad leads a pack with recalled Matthew Potts who, perhaps harshly, was not in the squads for the winter series, and debutant, Josh Tongue, from second division Worcestershire.  

Winning the toss on a cloudy morning, Stokes’s insertion of Ireland made sense, especially when Broad scythed through Ireland’s front line to leave them 19-3 after 6.3 overs. ‘Can’t see this going much past Day 3,’ said Irish. There weren’t many funky field placings in this innings other perhaps than the constant placing of Potts at a wide leg slip, a plan that bore fruit when Tector flicked one to him for Broad’s third wicket. Opener McCollom somehow survived a scratchy start to be top scorer on 36. There was a typically punchy 30 from Stirling and the tail wagged briefly, spearheaded by 33 from Campher. Somehow Ireland still had three wickets left at tea and their 172 all out was a brave effort. At least they weren’t humiliated.

Of the England players, only three people had anything to prove. All three to a greater or lesser degree failed. I felt sorry for Tongue, first change at the Pavilion end, who looked mediocre and ended the innings wicketless. I can’t imagine that Labuschagne or Smith will be waking in the night wondering how they are going to play him. Matthew Potts’s return to England colours was not much better, although he did pick up a couple of the tail enders. He was accurate but no threat.

The man who always has something to prove is of course Crawley. Although he and Duckett raced to 100 partnership at about 6 an over, he was scratchy and there were plenty of startled jerks of the head when he thought he might have nicked one. In one memorable over he caught up Duckett  with three 4’s. In the process he showed his mastery of the Chinese cut. I suppose his 56 will guarantee him his place for the Ashes but it won’t have got rid of the monkey on his back wafting its bat at anything outside the off stump every time he comes to the crease.

We left just before 6pm for a Q&A with Marina Hyde, the Guardian’s very witty satirist, at the very posh Cadogan Hall  – appropriate venue for Guardianistas the cynics might say. Our Middle Eastern  Uber driver made it clear that he didn’t know anything about cricket but, my God, could he talk about football? A lifelong Chelsea man, his 16 year old son has been part of the West Ham academy since he was about 8.

So we missed Crawley’s demise, plopping a caught and bowled to Hands’s hands apparently.  Pope, ending the day on 29, had obviously taken over the scoring from Duckett who ended on 60. 152-1 off 25 overs showed England’s intent.

Day 2 Friday 2 June: England nail the coffin

The food at Lords yesterday was so rubbish and expensive that we called in at Waitrose on our walk to the ground and stuffed our bags with grub and a couple of beers each. It was another day of sunshine. Lords looked a peach. I hate to say it but it really is the prettiest ground in the world. The new Edrich and Compton Upper Stands which flank the Media Centre complement it perfectly. We are low down near the pitch in the lower part of the Grand Stand where it’s very convivial with plenty of champagne corks popping onto the grass. There was a decent crowd, too.

It was an England run fest. 50s and 100s whizzed by like signs on the motorway. The gulf in class between the two sides was palpable. Ireland’s bowlers barely managed to get above 80mph and were often below. Duckett and Pope tucked in. Duckett is so small that he looks like a toytown clown but his hitting was merciless. He punches drives down the ground, his fast hands slash the ball through the covers and there was a beautiful crack to his sweep as he bent to reverse spinner McBrine for 4.

It was hard to see them getting out to this  innocuous bowling. The game was so one-sided that it seemed to lose its point. So what if England can thrash these guys round the ground? There was very little spice to it and no contest between bat and ball. It was cruel to the Irish bowlers who were so outclassed. If this is the death of Test cricket so be it.

The only question was how these two could possibly get out and what the score would be when Stokes decided to pull the plug. If the rest of the batters needed some practice how would they get to the crease? Surely one or both of these two retiring would be too much of an insult to Ireland and to the game. By lunch they had both brought up their tons at something just under a run a ball. After the break the answer to the question was clear. They’d hit and hit and take risks and eventually they’d get out. So it was. Duckett on 182 and heading for 200 drove at Hume, missed and was bowled.

To the delight of the crowd that brought in Root.  He played the goat and seemed to be practicing his ramp shot. When he settled down he scored mainly by flicking singles to give Pope the strike. He got to 50 in 56 balls, did one heave too many and was bowled by McBrine.

That brought in Brook. Shortly after tea, Pope having played with the bowling all afternoon brought up his 200 with a 6 off McBrine. Next ball he pranced down the wicket to do the same, missed by a mile and was stumped. Suddenly he and Brook were walking off. Stokes had saved Ireland any further embarrassment and pulled the plug on 524-4, 352 ahead.

In Ireland’s second  innings Tongue did set them wagging. I take back what I said about him yesterday. After 3 overs from big lanky Broad,  Stokes brought him on at the Pavilion end. His first ball was hard and heavy and thumped into Moor’s pads to send him on his way lbw for 11. Five balls later Blabirnie, the captain, stretched far too far trying to slap a ball through the covers and was caught by Bairstow who was having a fair game behind the stumps. Tongue was cook-a-hoop.

At 18-2 we sensed a repeat on yesterday. But Stirling was punchy and with McCollom brought the 50 up. I was getting the drinks when I saw on the screen that McCollom was on the ground with the physio doing something with his leg. I assumed it was cramp after such a long day in the sun. But apparently as he faced a ball from Tongue he had suddenly fallen to the ground. As he limped off strung on the shoulders of two of the Irish backroom staff it was clear that it wasn’t cramp but, so we were told, a twisted ankle. I doubt that we will see him tomorrow.

Soon after McCollom left Stirling was mad with himself for edging Tongue for his third wicket to the keeper. Tongue was now licking his lips and looked the part. Bowling mainly around 85mph he was hostile and accurate. Play finished at 6.30 with Ireland, a man down, on 97-3. We’ll be back tomorrow for the morning session but we are already planning where we will watch the Manchester FA Cup Final derby.

Day 3 Saturday June 3: Irish resistance

It’s a half an hour’s walk to Lords from our Paddington hotel down Marylebone Road which Irish says is the most polluted street in the country. We stop at Waitrose  for sandwiches and cans of beer and a bit further on call in for breakfast at a rather greasy spoon. I’m a birthday boy today and take a call from Australia from my sister Alex  who will be remembered by Addis tourists for the excellent barbeques she and the late lamented Bill gave when England were playing at Adelaide.

The talk  is all about how long it will take to polish off Ireland. We discuss this with the nice Lords volunteer supervisor who chatted with us yesterday. Effectively because of the injury to McCollom England need to take 6 wickets. Four before lunch, we reckon, and it won’t need much after that to knock off the tail. We’ve already clocked a sports bar by Marylebone station which should do for the FA Cup.

Tector and Tucker had other ideas. They played their shots, carved boundaries including the odd six. It needed Leach from the Nursery End to put paid to Tucker for 44. Meanwhile, big tall Tector was well on his way to a cracking 50.

Stokes put a lot of faith in Tongue who was breathing fire first from the Nursery End and then from the Pavilion end where he put paid to Tector for 51. This left him standing on the brink of a Test five for. Stokes had put Root on for a spell from the Nursery End and next over Campher holed out to Stokes.

It was 162-6 and with three wickets to take we assumed the end was nigh. On this benign pitch seam bowler Adair and spinner McBrine had other ideas. They were soon tucking in to Root who from 11 runs in 3 overs for one wicket moved to 59 off 10 over at nearly a run a ball as Stokes inexplicably, his job done with the taking of Campher, kept him on. Ireland speeded past their 172 of the first innings and brought up the 200 to go in to lunch on 215-6. They’d put on over 100 runs in the session which was definitely theirs. Nonetheless, there was still a good chance of watching the Cup Final, we thought.

We met up with Freddie and his mate Dave on the Nursery Ground. I had tried to reach them by going through the Verve Clicquot entrance only to be firmly told that that portal  was only for purchasers of a magnum of which there were more than a few with their bright yellow buckets being quaffed in their patch of ground behind the tent. Freddie was a genial as ever. The good news is that he and Marta are expecting a daughter in July. Congratulations and good luck to them both. The bad news is that Windsor were relegated.

After lunch, Adair and McBrine continued to dish it out to England. We had the unaccustomed sight of England fielders spread far and wide on the boundaries and at one point it really seemed as if Stokes had run out of ideas. To be sure, as England showed yesterday, the pitch was doing nothing but, no offence to the Irish batters, it also showed how one dimensional England’s attack is in this game: three seamers, no pace and no-one to swing the ball.

The two bowlers cruised past their 100 partnership and raced on to the 150 which they’d achieved in 155 balls. This was Bazball on the other foot. With McBrine on 64 and Adair on 80 an Irish ton from one or the other could almost be on the cards. Even more to the point the 352 they needed to score to make England bat again was beginning to be a distinct possibility. But when Adair fell for a top score  88 the score was 325. The 27 runs they still needed seemed rather daunting, especially when Tongue deservedly got his name on the honours board by having Hands taken by Crawley at second slip. I take back all I said about Tongue on Day 1 though I’m still not sure that the Australian batsmen are going to be too worried by the prospect of facing him.

But number eleven Hume was up to the job. He helped McBrine to get past 352 and was out 10 runs later to give Broad his solitary wicket of the innings. England needed 11 to win which Crawley smashed with three cracking 4s off the first over.

A win by 10 wickets is massive by any stretch but it didn’t really feel like that. Ireland had given England a good run for their money. It was their day. We won’t have another Ireland test for at least a decade, if ever, but they can be proud of the entertainment they gave us today which not a single England fan on the ground resented.

We didn’t get to see any of the events at Wembley but Irish kept us up to speed with his phone.


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