Memories From Lords
I watched the start of Irelandís first Test at Lords through gaps in my fingers.
Well actually thatís not strictly true. I was in work and so I never got to see much of the first day of the sacred event. But I would have been, had I been home. Instead, I listened via Guerrilla Cricket and followed ball by ball on ESPNCricinfo. (Something Iíd highly recommend if one finds themselves without an available TV.)
Another disclosure: my anxiety was short lived. That Irish team: Porterfield, McCollum, Balbirnie, Stirling, OíBrien, Wilson, Thompson, McBrine, Adair, Murtagh, Rankin, walked out on the hallowed ground and proved their almost divine right to be there.
ENGLAND 85 all out.
What was I worried about? Perhaps Joe Root scoring a quadruple hundred. Jason Roy hitting Irish bowlers into the backstop. Or maybe a hard working Irish side getting taken to task live on Sky Sports and our Test status somehow being revoked. Deep breaths. But I shouldnít have been worried, or surprised.
Consider Tim Murtagh with his 38 years of experience, his 229 first-class games, 806 first-class wickets. Thatís over 40,000 balls bowed. Same run up, load, jump, deliver over that front leg. Run up, bowl, repeat. A hint of swing, movement, top of off stump, the umpireís finger, and back to the shed with the batsman.
T. Murtagh: 9-2-13-5
179 of those first-class appearances are for Middlesex. Think of all those home games. He probably knows every blade of grass and each holy divot on that Lordís square from memory. England really should have required he bowled on that morning with a blind fold to even things up. But even that mightnít have helped. Throw in the fact that England seemed so starved of long form cricket that they may indeed have wondered why the umpires hadnít signalled for the powerplay.
But Murtaghís performance was certainly no surprise. He does just enough with the ball, in and out, and always supremely accurate. Irelandís own Vernon Philander (straight outta Lambeth). Tim wastes nothing. Years from now, risquť novels and European art-house films will more accurately depict the magic that Murtagh does.
The further we went through the test match the more familiar it all seemed. I nearly gasped as Stirling premeditated a paddle sweep around the corner in Jack Leachís first over, but in hindsight that was excessive. The gasp not the sweep. Stirling and the rest of the Irish batting line up are well familiar with the dynamics of spin bowling. Theyíve been playing against Afghanistan for what seems like forever.
It wouldnít all be so rosy. The game began to seriously get away during the partnership between Roy and Leach, the nightwatchman on the morning of Day Two. And there was the first signs of inevitable fight back from Ollie Stone and Stuart Broad at the end of Day One to bowl out Ireland and minimise the lead. Leach in particular began to look especially formidable with bat in hand as temperatures moved into the high thirties.
Enter Mark Adair, stage left.
Right arm over the wicket. Adair had already featured in the supporting cast of the Tim Murtagh show in Englandís (however brief) first innings. But in the face of increasingly tougher conditions (high temperatures, a growing England score, and the unbreachable Leach) he looked every bit the part during 20 overs for three wickets, with seven maidens and going for 3.3 runs per over. And what part was that? A tall test-standard seamer, making handy use of the Lords slope. It was a role he seemed born to play. All of Irelandís bowlers fought hard, but Adair looked almost as much at home as Murtagh on his home ground.
Wilson lbw bowled Woakes for 0. Double wicket maiden. IRELAND 24/5.
Early on the third morning, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes begin to wreak havoc on the Irish line up under granite skies. Many Test sides have endured such a fate. Two high quality English seamers with a hard and dark Dukes ball in their hands. Itís the stuff of nightmares. Just ask Virat Kohliís men about their experiences at the ground last year.
Irelandís historic first Test match was truly a game of no surprises. This was where they belonged. So now we wait only for this: the next test match, the confirmation of many more, and many, many, more memories.