England captain Joe Root defended his side’s batsmen ahead of the Ashes after Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad spared their blushes by skittling Ireland out for just 38 to complete a crushing Test match win at Lord’s.
The hosts had been bowled out for 85 in their first innings on Wednesday but, with nightwatchman Jack Leach making a career-best 92 second-time around, they were able to set Ireland a target of 182 on Friday.
Ireland then collapsed in a mere 15.4 overs, with Woakes taking a Test-best 6-17 and fellow seamer Broad 4-19 as England won by 143 runs.
A match scheduled for four days rather than the usual five allocated for a Test was all over before lunch on the third.
England’s top-order problems remain a worry ahead of next week’s first Test against Australia in Birmingham, with the Ashes-holding tourists looking to win a series away to their arch-rivals for the first time in 19 years.
But Root insisted a “substandard” pitch prepared by Irish groundsman Karl McDermott, in his first season at Lord’s, was to blame for their batting woes in England’s first match at the ‘home of cricket’ since they won the World Cup there 12 days earlier.
“First innings, last innings… when you are getting scores like that it tells a story in itself,” said Root.
With doubts over Australia’s batting as well, the Ashes could come down to which side can give their attack enough runs to play with.
“Australia will be thinking, ‘it’s doing a bit in England’,” said Root with a smile.
“It’s hard for anyone to read too much into these very extreme conditions but I’m sure the bowlers will like the look of the surfaces here and it’s bubbling up nicely for a very entertaining first game.”
Root was one of five players in the England side that beat Ireland — Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali and Woakes were the others — who had also played in the World Cup final.
Fellow World Cup-winners Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes were rested from the Ireland game but they all now face a frantic Ashes schedule of five Tests in just over six weeks.
– ‘Gutted’ –
“You have to suck it up and get on with it,” said Root. “It’s a hard slog for guys to play all five of these games and be at the top of their game.”
Meanwhile England coach Trevor Bayliss questioned his side’s attitude.
“For matches like this we have to take a good hard look at ourselves,” he said. “We have no problems getting up for games against Australia and India.
“Do we take the foot off for matches like this? Are we able to get in the mood to compete and be ruthless?”
Ireland have yet to win any of their three Tests following previous defeats by Pakistan and Afghanistan.
But this was arguably the most painful given their fine start, with veteran paceman Tim Murtagh taking 5-13 on his Middlesex home ground in England’s first innings.
Ireland’s second innings, however, was the lowest by any Test side since 1955.
“We’re pretty gutted,” said Ireland captain William Porterfield. “We had the chance to win it. That shows you how much it hurts.”
Nevertheless, the opening batsman added: “That first couple of hours is going to stay with players and Irish fans for a long time.
“To take 10 wickets in the first session of a Lord’s Test was an unbelievable effort and for Tim Murtagh to get up on the honours board is never going to be taken away from him.”
Ireland’s next Test is not until February, away to Sri Lanka in Galle, and they don’t yet know when they will play England in the format again.
“We’d love to play games like this every week in front of a full house at Lord’s,” said Porterfield.
“Every game we’ve played we have put ourselves in a position to win the game and so a few more games like this will potentially put us over the line.”
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