Andy Balbirnie, Paul Stirling, drive Ireland after Tim Murtagh magic topples England

July 24, 2019

It is entirely possible Ireland had hopes of taking a first-innings lead over England in their maiden Test at Lord’s but, even in their wildest dreams, it seems unlikely they can have envisaged doing so before tea on day one.

But, having bowled England out before lunch, Ireland took the lead for the loss of only two wickets half-an-hour before tea. By the interval, they had stretched it to 42 with Andy Balbirnie, timing the ball sweetly, recording Ireland’s quickest half-century (56 balls) in Test cricket to date. Paul Stirling, like Balbirnie a man with experience of playing his county cricket on this ground for Middlesex, had helped him add 82 for the third-wicket.

For much of this first day, it has been impossible to tell which was the experienced Test unit and which was the team finding its way in this format. So while Ireland’s new ball bowlers were able to maintain a probing line and demanding length, England’s failed to utilise any help that may have remained in the surface and were guilty of allowing the batsmen to settle rather more comfortably than might have been the case. And while England’s batsmen were punished for their timidity against the moving ball, Ireland’s demonstrated confidence in defence and attack and provided England with a demonstration in seeing off the shine and building an innings.

Completing a thoroughly depressing afternoon for England, they also saw two chances go begging in the field. First Balbirnie, on 10, edged one into the oddly large gap between first slip and keeper – Jonny Bairstow barely moved; Joe Root’s dive proved insufficient – before Stirling, on 17, edged one low to first slip only to see Root fail to grasp the chance. Stuart Broad was the aggrieved – and infuriated – bowler on each occasion.