A test at Lords. A dream realised for many in the Irish cricket community, writes Thom Malone.
Ireland's cricket team started with a bang but ended with a whimper dismissed before lunch on day three.
We'll always have Murtagh. An almost plaintive refrain after the English bowling attack tuned up for the Ashes next week in scintillating form. Broad and Woakes were lions. The Irish lads were infirmed, blind, defenceless, prey.
It started well. Ireland needed to dismiss the English tail. They did just that. Thompson's opening delivery knocking the stump of Stone dramatically out of the hallowed Lord's turf for a duck. It should have been an instigator. It was an omen. What remained of the rest of the day was going to be all about the bowlers.
Before this morning there was optimism. Well-intentioned optimsim, and based on some of the previous two days play not totally misplaced. Ok, so we allowed their night watchman top score with 92.
There were some dodgy field placings early on the second day. Some of the Irish bowling before lunch on day two was village standard. Seven English batsmen had 45 or higher strike rates in the second innings. Their night watchman got 92. THEIR NIGHTWATCHMAN GOT NINETY F****N' TWO. Anyway we are the plucky Irish and are nothing if not optimistic.
Before considering today's collapse, one that would have any amateur baker's cake kicked straight out of Bake-Off. Ireland added 207 in the first innings. They could afford to be ten percent worse than that and still win. How could we not be optimistic, even though there was a bit of humidity and moisture and a new ball and proper world-class swing bowlers with a point to prove?
In the first innings Murtagh's 16 was a complete fluke and maybe Kevin O'Brien should have protected strike a little better, but the tail is weak. After the perfect dramatic start with the ball this morning, Ireland arguably needed the opposite this morning with the bat.
Go full Geoffry Boycott. Ireland needed to channel Patches O'Houlihan and dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge. A run an over for two days. Leave the new ball go. Kill the drama. It doesn't take much to silence a Lord's crowd.
There would be no heroic stand. No miserable Shivnarine Chanderpaul style 75 off 400 deliveries. The conditions were perfect for swing and Broad and Woakes were hungry for lunch. The two bowlers dined on the uncooked flesh of the Irish batsmen. Phenomenal figures from both. Woakes will take the headlines with the six for just 17 runs, but Broad made up for his wastefulness with the new ball in the first innings.
The pair bowled the entire session, it was less than 16 overs in fairness, so hardly Stakhanovite. Every over had multiple dangerous deliveries. It could have been worse for Ireland in truth. The wickets tumbled and when Stirling was bowled for a duck the optimism evaporated. 19/3 quickly became 38 all out.
England warmed up for their Ashes opener in style, We'll always have Murtagh.