When Paul Stirling was adjudged LBW off the fourth ball of the sixth over to reduce Ireland briefly to 19-4, it looked ominously like the first morning of the 2019 Test here. Then, of course, England were on the receiving end and were bowled out by lunch.

Thanks to DRS and a gritty innings by James McCollum, that Geoff Boycott would have given a nod of approval to, Ireland survived to lunch with the only further loss of Stirling’s wicket for 30. In the end Ireland survived to shortly after tea and reached 172 which they probably would have settled for after the early clatter of wickets. However, they probably will feel disappointed that they did not at least pass their first innings total of 207 in 2019. Apart from McCollum who top scored with 36, only Stirling and Curtis Campher made it into the 30’s. Although the card might suggest that the wicket had plenty of help for the bowlers that was not really the case. There was some early movement but nothing too extravagant. It was a case of the wily old stager Stuart Broad using all his skills to get everything he could from the wicket.  

It was a cool cloudy morning when the England captain Ben Stokes, sensibly decided to bowl first when Andrew Balbirnie called incorrectly at the toss. Fionn Hand was given his Test debut and becomes the first player from Fingal to play a Test match for Ireland, although Eoin Morgan had achieved that feat for England. Hand batted at number 10 and while he only got a single it was a better start in his Test batting career than Balbirnie who got a pair on debut.

When it became Ireland’s turn to bowl, he was brought on first change after six overs, and he was understandably nervous bowling from the Pavilion end in front off probably the biggest crowd he has ever encountered. His first 8 deliveries went for 17 runs, but he settled down and his final 32 balls only went for 25 and he took his first Test wicket. While he probably should have taken Zac Crawley’s lofted straight drive first time he reacted well and snared the ball before it hit the turf. Graham Hume was the best of the bowlers, conceding a relatively economical 29 runs from his 8 overs. He had no luck as on three occasions Crawley inside edged the ball past the stumps and through to the ropes.

The fear about the strength of the bowling attack that I wrote about in my preview unfortunately came to pass. By the close of play England were only 20 runs behind Ireland’s total and because there were 6 overs short in the days play because of England’s appalling over rate, they would already be ahead of Ireland.

In the 25 overs so far in the innings they are going at better than a run a ball. They have hit 24 boundary fours which is the same that Ireland managed in their entire innings.

Unfortunately, from an Ireland perspective, tomorrow could be a very difficult day with England batsmen highly motivated to impress with the Ashes just around the corner.

Ireland must be much better with the ball otherwise they could face another situation like the two Sri Lanka Tests.

Here’s hoping.

Match summary.

Ireland 172 all out from 56.2 overs. (J. McCollum 36. S. Broad 5-51)

England 152-1 off 25 overs. (B. Duckett 60*, Z. Crawley 56. F. Hand 1-42)