LONDON England gave themselves a huge pre-Ashes boost by skittling Ireland for just 38 to win their one-off Test by 143 runs on Friday, emphatically crushing the visitors’ hopes of a stunning upset.
Ireland, playing only their third Test, were chasing just 182 runs at Lord’s to complete what would have been one of the biggest upsets in cricket history.
But they did not get close, lasting just 94 balls as Chris Woakes took a career-best six wickets for 17 runs and Stuart Broad returned figures of 4-19.
Ireland’s pitiful second-innings score was the seventh-lowest total of all time and the lowest since 1955.
England ultimately prevailed on a ground where they won the World Cup just 12 days ago but there are major concerns over their batting as they turn their thoughts towards the five-match Ashes series starting next week.
“I knew that was a lot of runs (to make) on that surface,” said England captain Joe Root, whose side mustered just 85 runs in their first innings.
“It’s very pleasing, the way we managed certain pressure situations,” he added. “It wasn’t by any stretch the perfect game for us but sometimes that can be a really important part of your learning.”
Root accepted that England would need to tighten up their batting against Australia after they had man-of-the-match Jack Leach to thank for their second-innings 303 – the nightwatchman made 92.
– ‘Substandard’ –
But the England skipper also criticised a green pitch prepared by Irish groundsman Karl McDermott, who is in his first season at Lord’s.
“I don’t like saying this but the wicket was substandard for a Test match,” Root said.
“Ireland bowled very well. Credit to Jack Leach for his 92 — it set an example to everyone, he was very disciplined, knew where to score his runs and left well.
“We’ve got to be slightly tighter and more selective at times, especially the captain.”
England had decided to rest World Cup winners Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes while James Anderson, their all-time leading Test wicket-taker, was missing with a calf injury.
All three are expected to be in the Ashes squad due to be named on Saturday.
Ireland, playing England for the first time in a Test, have now lost all three of their matches at this level following defeats by Pakistan and Afghanistan, but their day started brilliantly.
England, resuming on their overnight 303 for nine, saw their second innings end with the first ball of the third day’s play when debutant Olly Stone was bowled for a duck by Stuart Thompson.
Ireland had yet to give off the mark in their second innings when rain stopped play just seven balls into their chase and kept the players off the field for more than an hour.
But when the match resumed the overcast conditions — the floodlights were switched on — made conditions ideal for seamers Woakes and Broad.
The cascade of wickets in an innings where only opener James McCollum made it into double figures began when Woakes had Ireland captain William Porterfield caught behind by wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow for two.
Andy Balbirnie, who top-scored with 55 in Ireland’s first innings total of 207, fell next when he edged Broad to Root at first slip.
Kevin O’Brien, who hit the quickest World Cup century when Ireland beat England at Bangalore in 2011 and made a hundred in their inaugural Test at home to Pakistan last year, fell for just four, lbw to Broad — one of three wickets that fell for no runs to leave the visitors 24-6.
An extraordinary match ended when Woakes cleaned up tailender Tim Murtagh for his best return in Test cricket.
Porterfield said his side were particularly disappointed because they had put themselves in a position to win the game.
“We knew it was going to be tough with the lights on and drizzle in the air,” he said.
“But we had to dig deep and get through that. Fair play to the two lads to how they bowled — they made it difficult.”