The men’s international summer began at Lord’s on 1 June, with Ireland the visitors ahead of the main event: the Ashes series, running from 16 June to 31 July. Ireland have had a little bit more Test cricket of late, having played three of their six Tests since the beginning of April, after not previously having a Test since July 2019. The scale of Ireland’s challenge was exemplified by the fact their bowling attack could muster 26 Test wickets between them, while Stuart Broad could claim 102 at Lord’s alone.
England had a few questions with their line-up. Ben Foakes, who had performed so admirably as wicket-keeper, was left out to accommodate Jonny Bairstow, with the rest of the batting order unchanged from the winter. If there were concerns, it was the fact that Joe Root had batted just once in the IPL (scoring 10) since the Wellington Test at the end of February; Harry Brook had managed just 61 runs in his last seven innings for the Sunrisers, and skipper Ben Stokes had made two appearances in the IPL since playing in New Zealand, scoring 7 and 8.
Among the bowlers, James Anderson and Ollie Robinson, having both picked up niggles during their Championship appearances, they were rested. This meant Broad led the attack on the occasion of his 162nd Test appearance, taking him ahead of Alastair Cook among England’s all-time leading appearance-makers, behind Anderson on 179. Only seven players in Test history have played more often than he has. Robinson’s absence allowed for the return of Matthew Potts. Josh Tongue, the 25-year-old Worcestershire paceman, was given his debut as the third seamer, even though his 11 wickets this summer didn’t appear to be an unanswerable argument for selection. But he had impressed with his work in the nets, and a career average of a touch over 26 was not to be sneezed at. Jack Leach was the inevitable pick as England’s spinner. Meanwhile, for Ireland, Fionn Hand was the lone debutant.
Stokes won the toss and chose to field first under overcast skies. It wasn’t long before the decision was shown to have been the right one when Broad trapped Peter Moor in front for 10, playing across the line. Ireland skipper Andy Balbirnie followed soon after, well caught at second slip by Zak Crawley, and then Harry Tector fell at leg slip. Broad had three wickets in eight balls and Ireland were 19 for three. James McCollum and Paul Stirling staged a bit of a revival, before a top edge from a Stirling sweep off Leach looped up to Bairstow. At lunch it was 78 for four.
Soon after the break, Broad found McCollum’s edge and Joe Root took a regulation catch to remove the opener for 36. Leach dismissed Lorcan Tucker, who was LBW. Potts struck next as Andy McBrine edged to Bairstow, and Ireland got to tea at 162 for seven, but the final session began with a flurry of wickets. First, Broad got through Mark Adair’s defences to complete his 20th five-wicket haul for England, and his third at Lord’s. Leach then saw Curtis Campher (on 33) charge past one, only for the ball to crash into his stumps, and finally Potts jagged one back down the hill at Hand and the inside edge went through to Bairstow. Ireland were all out for 172, and Broad finished with figures of five for 51.
England’s response was emphatic, with the second ball of the innings going to the boundary to set the tone for what followed. Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett were irresistible, with the fifty partnership coming up in 7.2 overs. Bearing in mind England have scored at this sort of rate against India, New Zealand and Pakistan of late, Ireland’s underpowered bowling attack looked easy pickings. Duckett reached his fifty off 53 balls, then Crawley followed soon after, taking just 39 balls to get there, though he had benefited from several inside edges that narrowly missed the stumps. Crawley soon after became Hand’s first Test victim when he hit one straight back to the bowler and was out for 56: 109 for one. By the close, England had moved on to 152 for one, with Ollie Pope looking in excellent touch.
Duckett soon went to his second Test hundred off just 106 deliveries, meanwhile Pope was continuing to make smooth progress, reaching fifty off 64 balls. Duckett went to 150 in 150 balls – the fastest to this landmark in any Lord’s Test, beating the record of 166 balls set by Don Bradman in 1930. Immediately after, the 200 partnership came up off just 208 balls. Duckett ended up scoring 101 before lunch, the first to do so in a Test at Lord’s since 1924, by which stage the score was 325 for one.
Just after lunch, Pope reached his fourth Test century, coming off 126 balls. With that landmark behind him, he began to accelerate. As Duckett closed in on a double century, there was a shock when he chopped an inside edge onto his stumps off Hume and was out for 182 off just 178 balls, bringing to an end a partnership of 252 runs. That wicket brought Root to the crease, his longest innings since February having been just 15 balls. Pope reached his maiden 150 in 166 balls, equalling Bradman’s pace in 1930. As Ireland wilted, some of the strokeplay became a little bit ragged as England looked score off everything, with the 500 coming up inside 80 overs, and Root going to his fifty in 55 balls. At tea it was 503 for two, and Root had just scored his 11,000th Test run – the 11th to reach the landmark.
The evening session began with Root charging down the wicket to McBrine and missing it to fall for 56. Harry Brook won’t come in at 507 for three too often, but didn’t have much to do. He looked on as Pope reached his double century with a six; it had taken him 207 balls to get there – the quickest of the 19 that have been scored at Lord’s, beating Gordon Greenidge, and the second fastest of all time by any England batter (behind Stokes’s 163-ball effort v South Africa in 2016). He was stumped the next ball and Stokes declared with the score on 524 for four. England’s run rate of 6.34 was the fastest in any Test innings in England of more than 20 overs.
England’s lead was 352 runs, and Ireland seemed destined to suffer an innings defeat. First ball for Tongue he had his maiden Test wicket with Moor trapped in front. Before the over was complete, he also had Balbirnie caught behind. In his second over, McCollum mistimed a pull and badly twisted his ankle, and he would take no further part on the game. Stirling gloved one off Tongue to give Worcestershire man his third wicket, and by the close it was 97 for three.
Those who were expecting things to be wrapped up quickly on the third day were soon disabused. Tucker was out for 44, bowled by Leach, and then two quick wickets fell when Tector was caught off Tongue for 51 and Campher was out to Root three balls later: 162 for six. McBrine was joined by Adair and the seventh-wicket pair decided to have some fun, with the fifty partnership coming up in just 52 balls, and so by lunch the score was 215 for six.
They continued to play their strokes in the afternoon session, and the hundred partnership duly arrived in only 106 balls, with Adair having reached his fifty in 47 deliveries, while McBrine would end up needing 77 balls to reach the same landmark. The 150 partnership took 155 balls, as the pair kept up the same relentless pace – England were being Bazballed. Finally Potts struck, as Adair was caught behind for 88 off only 76 balls and the pair had added 163 runs – the biggest partnership in Ireland’s brief history. Hand was another Tongue victim just before the new ball was taken, his fifth wicket on debut.
Broad polished off the innings, bowling Hume, and Ireland were all out for 362, having avoided an innings defeat, with McBrine unbeaten on 86. Zak Crawley took four balls to knock off the 11 runs needed as England completed a ten-wicket win inside three days. It meant Stokes had become the first captain in Test history to win a Test without batting, bowling or keeping wicket. However, more alarming news emerged the day after when Leach was ruled out of the series with a stress fracture, resulting in Moeen Ali being brought into the squad as England’s primary spinner – assuming he plays it will be 648 days since his last first-class appearance. Obviously his presence strengthens a long tail, but it suggests a worrying dearth of Test-quality spinners in the first-class game.