Ireland vs England: How do you explain it?

The venue was the same, the main cast couldn’t have been more different.

Tim Murtagh, the 37 year old warhorse bowling gentle 115kph wobblers, slips so close to the batsmen they were in shot on TV.

Jason Roy, who took all before him in the World Cup. The man who respects no bowler and hit the Australian captain, part-timer though he is, for three sixes in a World Cup semi-final.

A fraction of movement down that famous slope, an edge just thick enough to reach Paul Stirling at first slip.

This is Test cricket ladies and gentleman. Back with a vengeance.

There were plenty of kids in the crowd at Lords on over the first two days, watching on as England’s capitulated (twice) to newcomers Ireland.

Their parents would no doubt have found it exceptionally difficult to explain why England’s batsmen were able to obliterate the best teams in the world out of the park over the course of the last six weeks, and yet collapsed so spectacularly against the only nation who are yet to win a Test.

How do you explain how Jonny Bairstow can smash consecutive hundreds in do or die, pressurised environments against India and New Zealand a few weeks earlier, and then produce two of the most inglorious ducks ever seen at the famous old ground against the might of Ireland?

How do you even begin to explain that the unfashionable and bespectacled Jack Leach, number 11 from the first innings and without a score in double figures in the county championship this season, can top score with 92? Without which, England would be in far deeper strife than they are already in.

If you had just tuned into cricket over the last few weeks, as perhaps many have on the emerald isle, you could be forgiven for wondering how Ireland are beating the best team in the world given that they failed to even qualify for cricket’s showpiece tournament. Will Porterfield’s men were paying $28 with the bookies prior to the match – within an hour of the first ball they had been slashed to $5.

It is curious that this should all happen on the occasion the ICC has chosen to trial a four-day Test. The last day certainly won’t be necessary. The only other time the four day Test has been trialled was when a rampant Morne Morkel led South Africa to victory before tea on day two against Zimbabwe in 2017.

Many of the Irish team playing in this match aren’t considered of enough quality to warrant a county contract. Yet here they are, with an extraordinary opportunity to defeat the World Champions at their home ground. In many ways, the pressure is now on them to win. They need to, in a way.

In two attempts in Tests they are yet to taste victory, and it’s unlikely they’ll get a more glorious chance than this to beat England. This is their last test this year, and according to the ICC Future Tours programme they don’t play England again until at least 2023. A win would give both cricket in Ireland and Test cricket the injection they (ever more frequently) need.

It will be big news in world cricket if they do, not least to a group of around 25 Australians who are in the country at the moment.

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