In the aftermath of arguably the most dramatic cricket final of all time just a few days earlier on the same ground, Lord’s had plenty to live up to as Ireland visited for a one-off Test, their third altogether and their first against England. Perhaps surprisingly in those circumstances, it was England who named more debutants: two to Ireland’s one, Mark Adair.
England’s newcomers were Jason Roy of Surrey, who had had such an impressive World Cup tournament at the top of the order, but who last played red-ball cricket eight months ago and had played just three first-class fixtures since September 2017. Despite that, his form in the white-ball game, especially given the lack of quality openers around, surely demanded his call-up. The other newcomer was Warwickshire paceman Olly Stone, who got the nod ahead of the in-form Lewis Gregory of Somerset. He had managed just two first-team outings all summer, and one felt he was merely keeping the place warm for Jofra Archer, who some wags suggested is the first player ever to be ‘rested’ from a side before he has actually played a game for them. James Anderson was, however, very much being rested, having failed to recover from an injury and not being risked ahead of the Ashes.
Joe Root elected to bat first and will have been horrified by what followed, as England collapsed from 36 for one to 43 for seven. Lord’s veteran Tim Murtagh knows every trick in the book on this ground and proved almost unplayable, eventually finishing with figures of five for 13, the best Test return for Ireland, and an early 38th birthday present ahead of 2 August. Joe Denly’s innings of 28 balls was the longest in terms of balls faced, though Sam Curran was at the crease for longer (41 minutes). England were heading for one of their worst ever scores, but Curran (18) and Stone (19) pushed them up to a still-embarrassing total of 85, all out before lunch on the first day. To give some idea of the scale of the humiliation, in 122 Tests against India, England have never been bowled out for a total below 101.
Ireland overhauled that total for the loss of just two wickets, Andrew Balbirnie top-scoring with 55, before they too suffered a collapse from 132 for two to 149 for seven. Stone picked up his maiden Test wickets in one over, removing first Balbirnie then Gary Wilson, during that period. The lower order took Ireland up to 207 all out, with Stuart Broad, Stone and Curran each taking three wickets. There was still time in the first day for England to come back out to bat, and nightwatchman Jack Leach saw off the one over that remained.
The second morning saw England begin their fightback, trailing by 122 runs. After the early loss of Rory Burns, Roy (72) and Leach put on 145 for the second wicket. By then Leach had gone past his previous highest first-class score and was closing in on a century. Famously, Alex Tudor holds the England record for the highest score by a nightwatchman – 99 not out in 1999 – though six other batsmen have made centuries for other countries. Sadly, Leach did not join them and was out for a career-best 92, one of five England nightwatchmen to pass 90 and fail to reach three figures (as well as Tudor, the others are Harold Larwood (98) in 1933, Eddie Hemmings (95) in 1983 and Jack Russell (94) in 1988).
England again managed to suffer a collapse, going from 171 for one to 219 for six, Jonny Bairstow completing a pairin the middle of it all. Curran (37) and Broad (21 not out) helped England up to 303 all out, leaving Ireland a gettable target of 182, after they took the final wicket with the first ball of the third day.
What followed was a miserable experience for all who hoped for an upset, as Ireland’s batting was blown away by Chris Woakes, who had gone wicketless and runless in the first innings, and Broad. England’s openers scythed through the entire line-up in just 15.4 overs, bowling out Ireland for 38. It was the seventh lowest score in all Test match history, and the lowest anywhere since 1955.Broad and Woakes became the third pair this century to bowl unchanged throughout a completed innings, following on from Anderson and Broad v New Zealand in 2013, and Boult and Southee v England in 2018. Broad thus became the first man to bowl in two unchanged partnerships since Colin Blythe completed the feat for a second time in 1909.
The result meant England finished up winning by a comfortable margin of 143 runs – but in truth, until the final morning, it was anything but easy. England now have an extra day to prepare for Thursday’s first Ashes Test at Edgbaston, but how much the game has done to resolve the various selection dilemmas remains to be seen. With Archer, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes all rested, and Anderson sure to return from his injury, at least four changes can be expected. England’s fragility at the top of the order remains their biggest concern when it comes to winning back the urn.