From World Cup glory to utter humiliation in the space of 10 days.
For England cricket fans, it all felt strangely nostalgic — a brutal reminder of a team’s seeming ability to yo-yo from the sublime to the ridiculous with unerring regularity. For Ireland, playing its first ever Test match at Lord’s, this was beyond the realms of any fantasy.
On July 14, England’s players danced across the Lord’s turf in jubilation, holding the World Cup aloft after their astonishing victory over New Zealand.
That day, one of the most dramatic in English sport, will live long in the memory. Wednesday’s performance, albeit in a different format of the game, will also be remembered, though for very different reasons.
On a steaming hot day in London, Ireland made sure England’s players returned to earth with an almighty bump, bowling them out for just 85 on the first morning of the four-day Test match.
Many of those turning up to watch this contest, part of England’s preparations for the upcoming Ashes series against Australia, had expected England to record a healthy first innings lead after winning the toss and electing to bat.
But Ireland, which only gained Test match status in 2017, despite winning five games against Test opposition across the 2007-15 World Cups, had other ideas.
In a week where Irish sport has been bolstered by Shane Lowry’s fine victory at the British Open in Portrush, perhaps it’s cricketers fancied a few hours in the limelight.
Led by Tim Murtagh, the 37-year-old, who took five wickets for 13 runs, Ireland made a mockery of the supposed gap in quality between the two sides.
Mark Adair, making his Test match debut for Ireland, claimed three wickets for 22 runs, while Boyd Rankin, who once played Test cricket for England, claimed two wickets.
For Ireland, which had lost both of its previous two Test matches in its history before this meeting with England, it was utterly remarkable.
“I’m not quite sure what’s happened in the last two hours. It’s a dream just to play here in the first place. But to get on the honors board,” Murtagh, who plays first-class cricket at Lord’s for Middlesex, told Sky Sports.
“It’s a fantastic first session for us. Everything felt really good today. The ball came out nicely and it did a little bit off the wicket. I should know how to bowl on this ground — I’ve been here long enough.
“I didn’t think I’d be on the away honors board when I first started playing, but I’ll take it. I’m over the moon.”
This was England’s lowest Test total on home soil since 1997 where it was bowled out for 77 by Australia at Lord’s. Its most recent failure came in January 2019 where it was dismissed for the same score, this time by the West Indies in Bridgetown.
Perhaps even more worrying for England, with the Ashes set to start on August 1, is the following statistic. It has now lost all 10 wickets in a session three times in the past three years, having not previously done so since 1938. In fact, it’s now happened four times in its past 34 Test matches.
The first Ashes Test between England and Australia starts on August 1 at Edgbaston, Birmingham.