Jack Leach fell eight short of becoming the first England night watchman to make a Test century, but Ireland retained the upper hand in their maiden Test at Lord’s.
While Leach and Jason Roy were together in a second-wicket stand of 145, it seemed England may set an intimidating fourth-innings target for Ireland. But once they were parted, England lost seven wickets for 77 runs to present Ireland with a wonderful opportunity to mark their trip to Lord’s with a historic win.
It says something for the struggles of England’s batsmen of late that they were grateful for the contribution of Leach. He came into this match averaging 4.66 in the County Championship season, having made just 42 runs in 12 innings, with some at Somerset fearing his confidence had been permanently damaged by a blow on the head while batting against Morne Morkel last year. He came in at No. 11 in the first innings.
By the time Woakes departed, England’s lead was a modest 126 and they had only two wickets in hand. But Sam Curran counterattacked in typically flamboyant fashion – there were four fours and two sixes in his 29-ball stay – to add 45 for the ninth wicket with Stuart Broad, whose own pull for six took England past 300. It may yet prove a crucial contribution. With one wicket in hand, England led by 181 when lightening forced an early conclusion to play with more than 20 overs unbowled.
Still, England have now made 400 only once in their previous 32 Test innings and not at all in their previous 14. Only once in those 14 innings have they reached 350. Four times in the last seven innings, they have failed to reach 200. On the eve of the Ashes, those are statistics that will have the England management worried.
Such issues can wait. Ireland will go into the third day of their third Test with a wonderful chance to seize a win that, ahead of the match, their captain William Porterfield suggested would register as the greatest achievement in the history of Irish cricket.
Summarized scores: England 85 and 303 for 9 (Broad 21*, Stone 0*) lead Ireland 207 by 181 runs