Sunday, 15 December 2019

Ireland lead England by 122 after bowling hosts out for 85

© AFP

MANCHESTER: Andrew Balbirnie top-scored for Ireland with 55 – the only 50 on either side so far in the match – with pacemen Sam Curran, Olly Stone and Stuart Broad taking three wickets apiece for England.

There was time for just one more over in the day’s play when Ireland were dismissed and England sent out nightwatchman Jack Leach, who managed to play out a maiden from the imperious Tim Murtagh as Joe Root’s men reached stumps on 0-0 in their second innings. Ireland batted for more than four-and-a-half hours, whereas their bowlers laid waste to England in less than half that time during the morning session.

In what is only their third-ever Test overall, an incredible Irish assault across just 23 overs and four balls saw England off before lunch. Murtagh alone sent five of the home batsmen packing and will have his name inscribed on the Lord’s honours board, a feat made all the more special by the fact that the 37-year-old plays his club cricket for Middlesex at the same ground.

It was Murtagh who drew first blood in St John’s Wood on his way to 5-13: Jason Roy — a World Cup hero at Lord’s 10 days ago — was dismissed for just five on his debut at the top order. Mark Adair then took a maiden Test wicket after a successful Ireland review, Joe Denly finished for 23 off 28 having been trapped LBW. England collapsed to 36-3 soon afterwards when Murtagh tempted Rory Joseph Burns to have a go at an outswinger and Gary Wilson caught the ball low down. Joe Root was the next English star to fall, and for zilch, in what was a carbon copy of Denly’s earlier exit. It was Adair again following another successful review, and Ireland were flying.

Murtagh then saw to Jonny Bairstow to take his second wicket of the same over. In an extraordinary half an hour, England had lost 5-6 in the space of 20 balls. Murtagh earned his place on the wall at the iconic London venue when he sealed his five-for, Moeen Ali his latest victim as England continued to tumble.

Stuart Broad went for just three when Boyd Rankin found the edge of his bat and, though the umpire originally rejected Ireland’s appeal, the decision was successfully reviewed by the Test newcomers. Rankin then struck again, Sam Curran’s minor fightback halted at 18 from 16 balls. England teetered at 67-9 through 20 overs. Their relatively inexperienced last pair of Jack Leach and Olly Stone steadied the ship ever so briefly, but Adair ended the latter’s cameo — and the morning session — as England were gone for 85. “I’m not quite sure what’s happened in the last two hours, to be honest!” said Ireland’s star man, Murtagh. “It’s a dream just to play here in the first place but to get on that honours board is a fantastic first session for us.

“Everything felt really good today. The ball came out really nicely and it did a little bit off the wicket. I should know how to bowl on this ground – I’ve been here [at Middlesex] long enough. “Just get it up there and try to let the pitch do a bit of work with a bit of nip both ways and a bit of swing. Adair was fantastic – particularly after getting a wicket with a no-ball early on! “To be honest, I didn’t think I’d be on the away honours board when I first started playing but I’ll take it wherever it goes.”

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