Broad’s five-wicket haul puts England in commanding position against Ireland

Stuart Broad was up to his old tricks on the opening day of the Test summer. Not his new tricks, like the voiding of Ashes series or talking up the outswinger he claims to have calibrated specifically for Australia’s star right-handers. Rather, he was being ruinous with a Dukes ball and making selection for the main event a touch trickier.

Broad is long past the point of needing to prove himself, of course. And Ireland are a side lacking experience in first-class cricket, let alone in Tests. Still, with Jimmy Anderson, Ollie Robinson and Mark Wood in bubble wrap this week, there are no guarantees he will start the Ashes and so figures of five for 51 – a first honours board appearance for 10 years – were a useful nudge as to his form and fitness. Once the visitors were rolled for 172 all out in 56.2 overs, their dismissals met with reserved cheers by a Lord’s crowd increasingly mindful of the mismatch, there was also a typically assertive response from England’s top order in the bright sunshine.

The threat will ramp up a good few notches in a fortnight’s time at Edgbaston but at stumps, having scorched to 152 for one from just 25 overs, they trailed by just 20 runs.

On a day that underlined the foothills of Test cricket Ireland find themselves in, and England’s chief cause for concern was a short delay to their journey to Lord’s caused by Just Stop Oil protesters, it may be here where Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum drew most satisfaction. Anxiety over the solidity of England’s top order may be an external thing, and the attack here was benign, but runs are never unwelcome.

Not least in the case of Zak Crawley, driving his second ball for four and notching 10 more with varying degrees of control in a 39-ball half-century. Crawley will see it as a missed opportunity for three figures, however, perishing to a fine caught and bowled from the debutant Fionn Hand on 56. Ben Duckett, unbeaten on 60 from 71 balls, will still fancy a hundred in his first outing on home soil, while Ollie Pope will resume after a zesty 29 not out.

England’s Jack Leach bowls against Ireland.
Jack Leach, who finished with figures of three for 35 from 14 overs, in action against Ireland. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

There was a tinge of green in the stands, less so on a pitch relaid over the winter. England have requested “fast, flat” surfaces for their encounters with Australia this summer and after the emerald one rolled out for Ireland’s previous visit four years ago, this was a more placid, beige affair, albeit not exactly the Gabba by way of bounce. Keen to push the game on and with early cloud cover overhead, Stokes had little hesitation in asking the visitors to bat upon winning the toss. He may have also been keen to tear the packaging off his new toy, Josh Tongue, who had been flanked by family members in the team huddle when presented with his England cap by Anderson.

Anderson was in his shoes 20 years ago and got the new ball. Tongue had to wait his turn, however, with Broad and the recalled Matthew Potts sharing duties and the latter enjoying his return to the Nursery End. By the seventh over Ireland were 19 for three, almost four down only for Paul Stirling to overturn an lbw decision off his first ball.

Broad had to settle for a double-wicket maiden to follow his initial removal of the opener Peter Moor lbw for 10. Andy Balbirnie, the Ireland captain, came into the Test off the back of a duck in his side’s solitary warm-up at Essex and fared no better here, nicking to slip. Harry Tector, a bright young thing boasting four one-day international centuries, then made it a second blob when he glanced Broad to leg slip.

That Potts was stationed there so early in a Test was typical of Stokes. The captain’s fingerprints could also be found all over Jack Leach’s figures of three for 35 from 14 overs, keeping the field up for his trusted spinner and watching first Stirling (30) and then Lorcan Tucker (18) perish playing the sweep either side of lunch.

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At the interval Ireland were 78 for four – New Zealand were 39 for six at the same juncture last summer – and resistance had come from James McCollum. Light on returns from his first five Tests but fresh from a century at Chelmsford, the opener was calm and compact while top-scoring with 36. Shortly after the restart, though, he was mugged by Broad, who got one to hold its line against the slope and fly to first slip.

Tongue’s first outing showed the attributes that have helped him leapfrog Chris Woakes. Consistently clocking in the high 80s on the speed gun and hitting 91mph in his first spell, the 25-year-old was used primarily as a bang-in bowler by Stokes. Tongue may have gone wicketless from his 13 overs, much to the dismay of headline writers, but delivered a taste of the hurry-up he will offer.

With Stokes opting against a trundle himself, the wickets were shared elsewhere. Potts finished with two for 36, dousing Andy McBrine’s gutsy 19 and the last man, Hand, while Leach enjoyed bowling Curtis Campher when, on 33, the all-rounder tried to launch him over the infield. Jonny Bairstow, a source of energy on his return behind the stumps, if troubled by the odd ball that wobbled late, felt similar.

But it was Broad who led England off the field after tea, a 20th five-wicket haul secured when Mark Adair’s off stump was sent tumbling. Was this the fabled new outswinger? Nope, this one moved in.

Besides, he’s saving his new creation for Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne, a meeting that may well be brought forward after this performance.


Ali Martin at Lord’s

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