Thursday 22 August 2019

Murtagh is on the mark as Irish arrive in style at Lord’s

Visitors stun England as they chalk up a 122-run lead on the first day of historic Test in London

Tim Murtagh acknowledges supporters after taking fives wickets against England at Lord’s yesterday. Photo: Matt Impey/Sportsfile
Tim Murtagh acknowledges supporters after taking fives wickets against England at Lord’s yesterday. Photo: Matt Impey/Sportsfile

David Townsend

Tim Murtagh would have returned to the Lord's pavilion at lunchtime yesterday tired and bruised - weary from sending down nine overs off the reel for the stunning figures of 5-13 and sore from pinching himself to believe what had just happened.

Ireland, on their first appearance in a Test match at the Home of Cricket, had dismissed their hosts for 85 in just over two hours, and England did well to make that many after losing six wickets for seven runs either side of midday as Murtagh ran riot.

The Middlesex veteran found just enough wobble and nibble bowling from his favourite Nursery End to beat the bat on the inside or kiss the outside edge as he accounted for Jason Roy, Rory Burns, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes.

Mark Adair, who shared the new ball, gave Murtagh good support, breaching the defences of Joe Denly and skipper Joe Root to earn lbw decisions and then took the final wicket via an inside edge onto the stumps.

Root's verdict came courtesy of the Decision Review System, the first time in three Tests that Ireland have recourse to technology, and the third umpire was helpful again in detecting a scratch on Stuart Broad's bat to give Boyd Rankin the first of two wickets.

England were bowled out in 23.4 overs, their shortest innings in a home Test and the large Irish contingent in a near capacity crowd was left wondering whether in the extreme heat was playing tricks on them as Murtagh marched off and told a TV interviewer he might now treat himself to dessert.

While the 37-year-old was putting his feet up, Ireland's opening batsmen made a circumspect start and had added 32 from 12 overs when William Porterfield pulled a long hop to mid-wicket on 14 and James McCollum soon followed, dragging on for 17.

Accelerated

Andy Balbirnie and Paul Stirling then added 87 for the third wicket, with the former striking 10 fours as he accelerated to his second half-century in as many Tests.

Ireland took tea on 122-2, with a lead of 42, after two sessions as one-sided as many had expected - except the other way around.

"Taking five wickets in that first session was as good a feeling as I've had in my career," Murtagh said. "I should know how to bowl here by now, I've played for Middlesex for long enough and I knew if I hit my lengths I'd cause problems.

"I told the other guys that if we were disciplined there would be enough in the pitch for us. Some of their guys were under pressure for their place with the Ashes series starting next week, and I guess it was a good time to play them."

England fought back immediately in the final session when Stirling, who had played the shot of the day, a dismissive pull through mid-wicket, was beaten by Broad nip-backer and not reprieved by DRS. His Test best of 36 contained four boundaries.

Balbirnie had his middle stump knocked out on 55 and four balls later the out-of-touch Gary Wilson nudged to first slip, leaving Kevin O'Brien to guide the tail towards and past 200 as wickets fell regularly at the other end.

Murtagh reappeared with the pads on at No 10 (a promotion after his last man heroics against Afghanistan in March) and smote four unorthodox boundaries but it didn't last long and O'Brien was stranded on 28 not out when Ireland were dismissed for 207.

There was just time for England to start their second innings but Murtagh was unable to put the icing on the cake with the wicket of nightwatchman Jack Leach, who faced all six deliveries. England will resume on 0-0 this morning, needing 122 to make Ireland bat again.

"If you'd have offered us a 120 lead at the start of the day we'd have snapped your hand off," Murtagh said. "Time will tell how the pitch will play as the game goes on but it's doing enough for us to put them under pressure again."

Murtagh may not perform his magic again today, but when Middlesex are next at home, he will be able to see his name on one of the boards that honour hauls of five wickets or more in Tests and, search as he might in either home or away dressing rooms, he won't find a bowler who has conceded fewer runs in doing so.

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