England’s Ashes candidates to be put to the Test by Ireland at Lord’s

• Joe Root’s new-look XI includes two debutants and two spinners
• Three members of the team will be playing their first home Test

On the eve of England’s first ever Test against Ireland perhaps it was fitting that the pitch, which is almost in the centre of the square at Lord’s, looked emerald green. It will not stay that colour for long since it will be exposed to a mower on Wednesday morning and a heatwave thereafter. Despite its hue England have taken the unusual course of picking two spinners in a bowling-heavy lineup.

Root had no hesitation in naming his side 24 hours before the toss. It includes two debutants: Jason Roy, occasionally of Surrey, and the less familiar Olly Stone, occasionally of Warwickshire. The former has been confined to England duties, the latter has recently been sidelined with a back problem. Both play with pace, which makes them exciting. Meanwhile three others – Jack Leach, Rory Burns and Joe Denly – will play their first Test matches on home soil.

It is unlikely that Lord’s can deliver the same level of excitement as on 14 July when New Zealand were the opponents and the destiny of the World Cup was at stake. Yet there remains a keen sense of anticipation before this four-day Test.

For the Irish this is obviously a landmark game for which 90% of the tickets have been sold over the first three days. They know how to dream, so perhaps when the next visit to Dublin takes place the wifi code in the press box there will have been updated from “Bangalore 2011” (when Ireland defeated England in the World Cup) to “Lord’s 2019”.

For the English players there is also plenty for which to play. The game takes place on the eve of the Ashes series and the side is in a state of considerable flux. So many players are eager to cement a place. At the top of the order Burns, after six Tests and an average of 25, is the old hand. He will now be joined by the debutant Roy with the 33-year-old Denly at No 3 and about to play his third Test.

Over the next fortnight this trio will meet contrasting challenges: the canny seamers of the Lord’s expert Tim Murtagh, who seldom reaches 80mph, will be followed by the pace of Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins at Edgbaston. Roy, in particular, will have to learn on the job, rather as Jos Buttler last summer. Yet few begrudge his presence in the team, especially when the alternatives available are considered.

With Buttler and Ben Stokes resting, England have an excess of all-rounders in their side, which may give the Irish bowlers hope. Jonny Bairstow, reunited with his gloves, will bat at five with Moeen Ali at six. The likelihood is that both these players will drop two places come Edgbaston. Among the bowlers Chris Woakes, who has not played a Test for England since the Trent Bridge match last August, will share the new ball with Stuart Broad, another who would like to remind the selectors of his worth. There is no excuse for any England player to be underwhelmed by the prospect of this Test.

The challenge for the Irish team – led by their captain for the past decade, William Porterfield – is not to be overwhelmed by the occasion. But they have plenty of experience in the form of Porterfield, Murtagh and another Middlesex stalwart, Paul Stirling, as well as Gary Wilson and Kevin O’Brien, who tormented England so brilliantly in Bangalore. Meanwhile Boyd Rankin, if selected, becomes the first cricketer since the Nawab of Pataudi in 1946 to play for and against England in Tests. It should not be so difficult for Rankin to enjoy his third Test rather more than his first in Sydney in 2014.

So another historic event at Lord’s is here. It is not quite on the scale of the World Cup final and therefore there is no imperative to have it on free-to-air television. However, in the wake of that final Guy Lavender, MCC’s chief executive, has outlined the benefits of putting the best quality cricket outside the paywall and he has suggested that one Lord’s Test should be free-to-air every summer. This is not a brand new idea. Last year Ali Martin put forward that same suggestion.

It is obviously an excellent idea, which would raise everyone’s estimation of both the England and Wales Cricket Board and the executives of Sky TV. The fans would welcome such a scheme. But this is no guarantee that either body will embrace such a beautifully simple plan. Instead grim and earnest explanations may be expected of why this is not possible – for contractual/political/financial reasons. Moreover, it might detract from The Hundred, on which £200m is being invested by the ECB.

In this particular instance the old yet oft-repeated argument that mankind managed to pop a man on the moon 50 years ago may have some traction. They will find plenty of reasons why this plan is not possible. The chances of an Irish victory here are far greater than a free-to-air Lord’s Test being enjoyed by the wider cricketing community in the foreseeable future.


Vic Marks at Lord’s

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Ireland to seek talks over Lord’s Test after being granted full-member status
Ireland will hold talks with the England and Wales Cricket Board over a possible Lord’s Test in 2019 after they and Afghanistan were granted full-member status of the International Cricket Council on Thursday

Ali Martin

22, Jun, 2017 @8:31 PM

Article image
Joe Root hits out at ‘substandard’ Lord’s pitch after England’s three-day Test win
Joe Root, the England captain, was highly critical of the Lord’s pitch after his side avoided an embarrassing Test upset against Ireland

Andy Bull at Lord’s

26, Jul, 2019 @5:52 PM

Article image
England skittle Ireland for 38 to bounce back and win Test at Lord’s
England’s bowlers tore into Ireland in the morning session to seal victory and save face before the Ashes begin next week

Vic Marks at Lord’s

26, Jul, 2019 @1:11 PM

Article image
Tim Murtagh’s magic for Ireland makes it a green day at Lord’s
Tim Murtagh said Ireland were playing England at the best time after taking five wickets in the Lord’s Test

Andy Bull at Lord’s

24, Jul, 2019 @7:37 PM

Article image
Porterfield’s bad feeling comes true at Lord’s to leave Ireland with regrets | Andy Bull
Ireland’s captain was left ruing a missed opportunity of a historic Test win over England at Lord’s

Andy Bull at Lord’s

26, Jul, 2019 @5:42 PM

Article image
Jack Leach leads England fightback but Ireland remain in hunt for Test win
The nightwatchman Jack Leach hit 92 but Rory Burns struggled a week before the Ashes as Ireland kept their Test victory hopes alive

Vic Marks at Lord’s

25, Jul, 2019 @6:01 PM

Article image
Top-table seat a dream come true but Test status not the holy grail for Ireland | Ali Martin
Although the green light to become a Test-playing nation is expected in June the priority for Ireland is to grow the game at home

Ali Martin

03, May, 2017 @6:40 PM

Article image
England to face Ireland in four-day Lord’s Test in 2019
England look set to host Ireland for a four-day Test match next summer, with the fixture slated to take to place at Lord’s in July

Ali Martin

02, Jun, 2018 @3:35 PM

Article image
England hoping for better pitch at Lord’s for second Test against India
The MCC says it has done everything possible to provide England with a livelier pitch for the second Test than the moribund surface at Trent Bridge

Andy Wilson at Lord's

15, Jul, 2014 @5:50 PM

Article image
England’s Jack Leach cites ‘weird thoughts’ during nervous nineties
Jack Leach confessed to being unusually tired after such a long innings and battling cramp in his forearm on a sapping humid day at Lord’s

Vic Marks at Lord’s

25, Jul, 2019 @7:17 PM