Saturday 17 August 2019

Ireland vs England preview: Wilson ready to keep the faith at Lord's as big moment dawns

Ireland's Gary Wilson. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland's Gary Wilson. Photo: Sportsfile

David Townsend

Gary Wilson is set to become Ireland's third wicketkeeper in as many Test matches when the historic encounter with England gets under way at Lord's this morning, with Lorcan Tucker on standby.

Niall O'Brien was behind the stumps for Ireland's inaugural Test against Pakistan at Malahide last season but following his retirement, and with long-time deputy Wilson out injured, the gloves passed to Stuart Poynter for the second game, away to Afghanistan in March.

Tucker, the 22-year-old Pembroke keeper, was preferred to Wilson (below) for the recent one-day international series against Zimbabwe, but the former Surrey skipper has vast experience in multi-day cricket and played against Pakistan as a specialist batsman.

Ireland received a boost yesterday when James Anderson was ruled out with a calf injury, leaving England with a couple of seam bowling debutants Olly Stone and Lewis Gregory to pick from, alongside veteran Stuart Broad and World Cup-winner Chris Woakes. Anderson has taken 575 Test wickets, more than any other fast bowler, and is touch-and-go to be fit for the start of the Ashes series against Australia next week.

Ireland's Andy McBrine and the uncapped Simi Singh offer finger-spinning options but the visitors would love to have a leg-spinner to call on.

Youngsters Jacob Mulder and Gareth Delany have both shown promise but the best leggie on the island is still Conor Hoey, the 51-year-old Trinity tweaker, who played his last international in 1995.

The Lord's game will last a maximum of four days. Since 1877, Test matches of varying lengths have been scheduled, from as little as three days up to and including several 'timeless' contests, but nearly all Tests played in recent decades have been scheduled over five days.

The shortened encounter is designed to give breathing space in a busy summer for England, sandwiched as it is between the World Cup and the Ashes, and not, as some have suggested, to allow the hosts to retain a feeling of superiority over the Test new boys.

If the Lord's pitch has a greener hue than normal, it could be because it has been prepared by Karl McDermott, the Dubliner who took over as head groundsman at the London venue last year after a stint at Hampshire and 17 years looking after the Clontarf pitch at Castle Avenue.

Ireland know better than to expect any favours, though. Back in 2004, when coach Adi Birrell's side needed only to draw a three-day match against Scotland at Clontarf to qualify for the finals of the InterContinental Cup, McDermott produced a green top and then worked his socks off to mop up when rain might have saved Ireland. Scotland won by eight wickets.

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