England skittle Ireland for 38 to bounce back and win Test at Lord’s

• Woakes takes six wickets and Broad four in rampant display
• England 85 & 303; Ireland 207 & 38. England win by 143 runs

And so in the blink of an eye all hope was extinguished. Under glowering skies with the floodlights at full blast Irish dreams were shattered by the old English pros Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes. For the first time in three days the gulf between the sides was chillingly demonstrated. Having taken the wicket of Olly Stone with the first ball of a gloomy day, Ireland needed 182 for what might have been the most sensational victory in Test cricket. But they were ruthlessly dispatched for 38 in 15.4 overs.

So England won by 143 runs, which sounds a very comfortable margin. Yet after a magical first day Ireland controlled the game, after the second their stoic persistence in searing heat meant that they were still in the hunt but on the third, with the devious Duke darting and the English catching sure, the old order was emphatically restored. Despite the predictability of the outcome, the Irish had frightened England – and done them a favour in the process.

Instead of a relaxed stroll towards an inevitable victory, England had been put on their mettle and eventually they responded with Broad and Woakes, both eager to advertise their indispensability before the Edgbaston Ashes Test, revelling in the most accommodating bowling conditions. The nature of the cricket will be different at Birmingham – the standard will be much higher; the play much pacier and more intense – but England will better prepared for having to perform under pressure.

For a while an almighty humiliation had been on the horizon. Yet they muddled through, leaving everyone to ponder how they had been so outplayed so emphatically at the start of the match.

Perhaps this experience has helped to banish the inevitable fallout of that World Cup win. Meanwhile those who had been fearful that this Test was going to be an embarrassing mismatch must be grateful that the freefall collapse of the Irish batting line-up took place at the end of the game rather than the beginning.

Woakes toppled the first domino in the row when he removed William Porterfield, a dismissal that hinted England were back to somewhere near their sharpest.

A substantial edge sped to the left of Jonny Bairstow, who dived with the intention of catching the ball with both hands, but then there came the realisation that he would have to make do with one. The ball lodged safely in his left glove, a brilliant catch and undoubtedly the pinnacle of Bairstow’s match. It was not a great one for wicketkeeper/batsmen since Gary Wilson, Ireland’s keeper, also registered a pair.

Soon Andrew Balbirnie was taken at first slip by Joe Root off Broad, the first of four catches pouched by the England captain, whose recent trials at Lord’s were coming to an end. Now Broad and Woakes sensed their chance for wickets galore while Ireland began to fear the worst especially after Paul Stirling was bowled through the gate second ball.

The procession was under way and no Irishman could stop it; there were lbws, nicks and at the end a few desperate heaves that met fresh air rather than the treacherous red ball. James McCollum reached double figures; Mark Adair struck a six into the Tavern off Broad but these were the solitary highs in a nightmarish innings that will be the one stain on Ireland’s first ever visit to Lord’s.

Woakes finished with six for 17, Broad four for 19 on a Lord’s surface which is no longer viewed with much affection by batsmen. Root went so far as to describe it as “substandard” afterwards. “It was not a close contest between bat and ball,” he said. Both of England’s opening bowlers may have taken a more sympathetic view of the surface; they would not want their figures compromised by the conditions or the opposition. Undoubtedly Woakes and Broad have enhanced their chances of playing at Edgbaston on Thursday though it is hard to gauge how much meaning should be given to the evidence provided by Ireland’s second innings.

So another large crowd was suddenly contemplating an empty afternoon just as the sun, an ally of batsmen, made its belated appearance. They hung on for the post-match activities, which incorporated the man-of-the-match award. To emphasise what a bizarre contest this was it was given to Jack Leach, who contrived to deliver the highest score of the match, 92, which was 83 runs more than his top score this season. He may well have to endure being man of the match one day and being omitted from the Test team in the next game. Yet not even he would quibble about that. He will not forget it either; it is a little record to impress the grandchildren.

Apart from Leach not many of the batsmen will head to Birmingham with their confidence enhanced – actually there is no absolute guarantee that Leach will be heading in that direction. Jason Roy now has a Test half-century to his name, albeit a skittish one, but Rory Burns will, presumably, go there with doubts about his current form. There they can expect a more benign surface and faster bowlers, which means there will be less time for them to think, which might suit them better.

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Vic Marks at Lord’s

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