In the end it was easy, as Ireland crumbled to 38 all out and a 143-run loss, but in reality England do not go into next week’s first Ashes Test having gained much from this encounter.
Crammed into a summer schedule already overflowing with a World Cup and an Ashes series, it is a shame that Ireland’s maiden bow at Lord’s came essentially at best as a warmup game for England and at worst a match they really could have done without. Delaying it until the less congested summer of 2020 might have been the best thing for all concerned.
It is a point however that you suspect Ireland would disagree with, their path to Test match cricket has been long and arduous and for them the chance to play even a four-day one at Lord’s was unmissable. And until their disastrous final session, that was exactly how they played this game, creating many happy memories from the match despite its slightly embarrassing denouement.
England on the other hand would appear to have got little from this Test, that is apart from another calamitous collapse, 85 all out this time, to add to their bulging collection.
They go into next week’s Edgbaston Test with as many if not more question marks about the makeup of their side. The top three remains England’s greatest area of concern, and while Jason Roy looks set to be given the whole Ashes series in order to prove he is the right man for the job, his Surrey teammate Rory Burns has hit a bad patch of form at just the wrong time, and with twin failures in this game he might well be fearing for his place in the side.
Joe Denly might have been England’s top scorer in their first innings, but then again when you’re bowled out for 85 that is not exactly much to write home about – Joe Root’s reluctance to bat at three and the lack of candidates from county cricket banging down the door, mean he will almost certainly be persisted with, even if there are many among England supporters who still have doubts about his suitability for the job.
The opening spots in particular have been a conundrum that England, despite many different attempts, appear little closer to solving. This particular pair essentially represent the extremes of two differing schools of thought, in Burns they have county cricket’s most consistent performer in the role over recent years and in Roy they have the white ball star and proven ODI international who they hope can translate those skills to the red ball game.
With both men having some credit in the bank, Burns in the form of county runs, Roy in ODI performances, there is therefore an argument that they should be persisted with for a lengthy period of time. In recent years England have been willing to give players eight or nine Tests to try and prove themselves, with little success, perhaps now they should be willing to try giving players even longer.
Meanwhile away from the top three, the recent form of both Jonny Bairstow, who picked up a pair here and has seen his Test performances dip as his ODI ones have taken off, and Moeen Ali who has looked out of sorts for some time now, will be other concerns just bubbling below the surface.
If things are unclear for England with the bat, they are similarly hazy with regards to who will form their bowling attack in the first Test against Australia next week. However in contrast to their batting, where they find themselves lacking candidates, with the ball England are spoilt for choice.
Coming into this game Chris Woakes clearly felt that he was in no way guaranteed his spot in the team, hence his decision to play against Ireland despite his World Cup exertions, he will have been relieved then to make his case with 6/17 in the second innings after going wicketless in the first.
Even with Mark Wood looking likely to miss a large chunk of the rest of the summer through injury, England have a wealth of options, which will make the selectors jobs fairly tricky when picking their best side.
James Anderson and Jofra Archer both look set to be fit, while Woakes and Stuart Broad showed what they could do as they skittled Ireland. Then there is Sam Curran, last summer’s breakout star, and Olly Stone showed in this match on Test debut that he can be a threat as well.
Given the travails of nearly all Australia’s batsmen in their recent warm-up match against themselves, and therefore the success of their own bowlers in that match, this upcoming Ashes series doesn’t look like being a run-soaked one.
Will any Australian show they can play the moving ball? Will England make their third total under 100 in a year? The answers to those and a whole lot more coming up next week.
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