It’s fair to suggest that the opening day of the test match against England was one of the best days in Irish cricketing history.
It seems a bit strange to say that with the match not yet being finished, but it was just one of those occasions. There were thousands of Irish fans in the ground and given the sense of euphoria as the day went on, it’s right up there with some of the team’s World Cup exploits.
To be in pole position to win a test match against the world champions at Lord’s – well, it’s dreamland, really. It was unbelievable to be there witnessing it and commentating on it. Seeing how it unfolded and seeing the English side capitulate over the course of the day in front of a big crowd in the best cricket ground in the world – it was a real pleasure.
The Irish team played with so much freedom, class and high skill. There was a little worry beforehand that they may have been overawed by the occasion but it didn’t transpire that way. They were brilliant in their execution and played with a smile on their face, led by the main man Tim Murtagh.
It’s hard to put into words how well Tim bowled. He’s been doing that kind of thing for Middlesex for many years, but to do it in a test against England was sensational. His pace is nothing express, but he moved it enough either way to do some damage.
Some of the England batsmen were undone by good bowling – others, it must be said, were undone by slightly poor batting. On the whole, though, credit to Tim – and also the captain, William Porterfield, who changed up the bowling well and reviewed smartly.
All in all, it was a 10 out of 10 performance from Ireland with the ball. With the bat, they might be a touch disappointed. They were in a position to get more runs than they did, being 130-2 at one stage and potentially looking at a score of 300-plus. That would have put them in a really strong position, but ultimately on Day 2 Ireland are on top in a test – if you’d offered them that before a ball was bowled they’d have taken it.
The pitch is getting a lot of scrutiny. I don’t think it’s a wonderful wicket but I also don’t think it’s a bad wicket. You never judge a pitch until both teams bat on it: Ireland batted second on it and batted better. England didn’t adapt to the conditions as well as their opponents and there were a few loose shots against some excellent bowling – they looked off the pace mentally as much as anything.
I can’t see England batting as badly again. They’ll front up second time around – otherwise they’re going to lose to Ireland.
As for Ireland’s chances of finishing the job, I know from being an ex-player that when a team is in a position of ascendancy like this, if you don’t go on to win you feel it was a missed opportunity. Fans leaving the ground on Wednesday evening won’t have cared too much about the end result, but the players will want to win this game and etch their names into Irish cricketing lore. As things stand, they are in a powerful position to do so.