England v Ireland, One Off Test*, Day 1 – Same Old Shit, Just A Different Day

Tim Murtagh is a good but unremarkable county bowler. He has a career first-class bowling average of 25.33. He does not have magical powers relating to the Lord’s pitch. He bowls a medium pace delivery with minimal movement which international batsmen, particularly when they’re being paid what England’s batsmen are being paid, should be able to handle if not absolutely dominate.

All of which is to say that I was both surprised, and yet at the same time totally unsurprised, when Murtagh tore through England’s top order like Ian Austin through a free buffet. England have had a long run of giving thoroughly ordinary bowlers their best career figures. The first example which springs to mind is from a few months back, when Roston Chase took 8/60 on a pitch which was not turning in the slightest. Even after that innings, Chase’s Test bowling average remains well over forty.

There is an undeserved arrogance which England seem to project when facing what should, on paper at least, be weaker opposition. Most of today’s team haven’t played a game in this year’s County Championship, meaning their last game with a red ball was either in the West Indies in February or 10 months ago in the previous home season. The compressed schedule to fit in the World Cup and a five-Test series meant here was no time to add in any warmup games. Not that this mattered to the ECB and the England team, because they (and much of the English media) have treated this Test match as a warmup for the Ashes.

This is not a new phenomenon either. Last year, England played an ODI against Scotland as a precursor to their series against Australia. With no warmups or team practices before the game, the highest ranked ODI team and current World Cup-holders were smashed to all parts of the ground by the Scottish batsmen. England’s Test team are considerably less able relative to to their ODI counterparts, and yet still the expectation that they can rock up to a full international game against a ‘weak’ opposition and win without any preparation whatsoever remains.

The most worrying thing about this batting performance by England is that this is quite possibly their first-choice top five. Buttler and Stokes were rested after the World Cup, but they bat at 7 and 6 respectively. All of the batsmen seemed to play miles away from their pad when driving, both to the front and side. It was absolutely terrible technique. These five batsmen scored a total of 36 runs between them, with their team having won the toss and whilst playing in rather benign conditions. Joe Denly was the best of the lot, contributing 23 runs, but by no means was he good enough.

Since the start of the 2018 season, only two English batsmen in the top five average over 30: Alastair Cook, and Joe Root. Root averages 33.76 in that time. During Cook’s struggles as opener, his continued selection was excused by people declaring that there was no better alternative to take his place. This now seems to apply to every member of their batting unit, including the captain. Ten years ago, an average of 33.76 would have seen any batsman dropped. Now, such a thing would be inconceivable.

Such selection niceties don’t extend to the bowlers, despite their consistent good work with the bat and ball. Olly Stone and Sam Curran took three wickets each plus were the second and third highest-scoring batsmen in the first innings, and yet both are likely to be dropped to make way for the rested Ben Stokes and injured Jimmy Anderson. It is a consistent thread in recent times that England’s bowlers pay the price for the batsmen’s failures.

That England are in this game at all is thanks to their bowlers. Restricting any Test team to 207 runs in their first innings is a great achievement, particularly on what is a flat (if somewhat slow) pitch. They are 122 runs behind, but that is not an impossible margin to recover against a fragile opponent.

England might have been in a worse position at the close of play if there had been 98 overs in the day, as there was supposed to be. Being a four-day Test, the sessions have an extra half hour added. Instead, the day finished with 12 overs lost. This was not, I hasten to add, England’s fault. Ireland were about ten overs short in the first session, in large part due to the rapid succession of English wickets. Because the rules regarding over rates are extraordinarily lax, it is also unlikely that either team will face any penalty for this. Allowances are made for drinks breaks (of which there were six rather than the normal three due to the freakishly hot weather) and short innings such as England’s effort are also given due consideration. We do bang on about it, but this a consistent problem which cheats paying fans out of their money.

England have made one much-needed change to their batting lineup: They have replaced Jason Roy as opener. Jack Leach seems infinitely better equipped to open the Test batting, as shown by his ability to face six deliveries without giving the opposition a chance to take his wicket. Such a solid foundation might help England’s middle order produce a few more runs than they managed in the first innings. I can only assume that Roy will be batting at 11.

If you have any comments about today’s play (and boy, do I bet you do), please make them below.


39 thoughts on “England v Ireland, One Off Test*, Day 1 – Same Old Shit, Just A Different Day

  1. Andy C Jul 24, 2019 / 6:49 pm

    Just on the over-rate, England managed something like 9 overs in the just under 50 minutes from 6pm, with a display of timewasting that would’ve gladdened the heart of any Wycombe Wanderers supporters in attendance, so I’d say they were pretty culpable themselves.

    As for the rest, deja vu all over again. Our only method of winning Test matches continues to be “hope the oppo bat even more pitifully”


  2. Rooto Jul 24, 2019 / 6:53 pm

    I think Sean will be along shortly to point out that Tim “Dial M” (for) Murtagh is a pretty exceptional county bowler. He’s putting his skills to good use in test cricket. I think this – and what you said later about the relative quality of batting and bowling in England – shows that we’re in a mediocre period for test batting. Teams are generally stronger with the ball (including Ireland).

    Liked by 1 person

    • dannycricket Jul 24, 2019 / 6:58 pm

      a) Middlesex are garbage. Their fans and their players. Garbage. And evil.
      b) He’s good in Division Two. The last time he was in Division One, in 2017, he averaged 27.63. He was *Middlesex’s* sixth best bowler in the Championship that season. Quite honestly, I was being kind when I described him as good. I think I might change it to “below average”.


      • jennyah46 Jul 25, 2019 / 7:22 pm

        Danny! How dare you! If I had any boys I would set them on you.


        • dannycricket Jul 25, 2019 / 7:25 pm

          Ah. I wondered what was taking you so long to respond.

          Everything about Middlesex is terrible. The ground, the administrators, the players and the fans. Terrible from top to bottom.


    • Sean Jul 24, 2019 / 6:58 pm

      Haha. Already did that in the comments in my last post. Unremarkable my arse, he’s always been a bloody good bowler and knows the Lord’s pitch inside out.

      I’d have ‘The king of swing’ as he’s known in St. John’s Wood ahead of Woakes every day…


  3. thelegglance Jul 24, 2019 / 7:03 pm

    My day 3 tickets are looking in serious peril. And I’m not going up to watch a session and a half.


    • Sean Jul 24, 2019 / 7:04 pm

      Could be a meet in the pub near St. John’s Wood calling…


  4. metatone Jul 24, 2019 / 7:22 pm

    I’m going to continue my WC rant – what is this fashion for crappy pitches that flatter bowlers. And it’s not just Lords, go look at the Aussie warm-up game. I know in the end the ECB thinks it will play to home advantage (step forward J Anderson) and we’ve certainly had some Chief Exec pitches over the years, but it seems like the pendulum has swung too far.

    Just look at how green the Lord’s pitch was. Since when was that normal at the end of July?


    • dannycricket Jul 24, 2019 / 7:26 pm

      It was green but dry. The extra grass is meant to prevent the pitch breaking up and becoming a lethal spinning wicket under the intense heat of today and tomorrow. It has barely seamed or swung, and come onto the bat more easily than many pitches in the World Cup. It is a batting pitch, and England were right to choose to bat after winning the toss.


  5. psoans Jul 24, 2019 / 7:30 pm

    I was tempted to buy tickets for the game, I think I am glad that I didn’t. There were 15 overs bowled short. The risk of Root being banned for at least one of the Ashes Tests is pretty high. I was not surprised by what Ireland did and I mentioned it in my blog. Cricket Ireland has a budget of only 10 million Euros. Ireland and Afghanistan need to play more Tests.


    • thelegglance Jul 24, 2019 / 7:33 pm

      No bans any more. Just fines for the whole team. With the changes of innings it was 12 short today.

      Liked by 1 person

      • dannycricket Jul 24, 2019 / 7:36 pm

        In the Test Championship, teams will also lose 2 points per over lost. This game, not being part of the Test Championship, has no such penalty.


      • psoans Jul 24, 2019 / 7:50 pm

        🤦🏻‍♂️ I must have missed that announcement. England’s batting was strange. Bairstow seemed to have got his feathers ruffled because of where he was batting.


        • jennyah46 Jul 25, 2019 / 7:26 pm

          Send for Foakes.


    • dannycricket Jul 24, 2019 / 7:35 pm

      It was 12 overs, since the incomplete overs at the end of innings count as full overs and 2 overs are taken away between innings (unless it happens at a scheduled break, like it did at Lunch.

      But yeah, it’s a total rip off.


  6. Quebecer Jul 24, 2019 / 8:24 pm

    One of the ironies about our batting is that the one bat we’ve tried in the last few years who’s looked like he might be test class is Ben Foakes.

    I honestly think hes a better batsman than Burns and Denly at the very least, and possibly Roy as well. And we have absolutely no one else – yet we cant play him.


    • dannycricket Jul 24, 2019 / 8:38 pm

      He’s done that at 7/8 though. At some point, England needs to find a batsmen who can reliably survive the first few overs against a strike bowler with a new ball.


      • Quebecer Jul 24, 2019 / 8:41 pm

        Yet he still looks to me the most capable of doing that. I accept the not a lot of competition on that, mind you.


        • dannycricket Jul 24, 2019 / 8:46 pm

          I seriously suggest that England use nightwatchmen as openers. Bowlers like Anderson or Leach can take a few overs out of the ball and the opening bowlers and make things easier for England’s middle order. It’s not fair on them, as they’d probably be peppered, but it’s still better than picking Roy.


          • dArthez Jul 25, 2019 / 10:48 am

            Your idea is credible. Burns fell before Leach, who also faced most balls and did most of the scoring (if a bit lucky at times, but openers need that). As an added advantage, England may then have some serious batting skills at 11 …


    • Giles Falconer Jul 25, 2019 / 6:26 am

      Foakes was tried at no. 3 in the recent Lions game vs an Australian XI at Canterbury – unfortunately he looked totally out of position and was the one Lions batsman not to make a score in either innings.


  7. Quebecer Jul 24, 2019 / 9:29 pm

    Stone is a pretty straightforward bowler. I mean that as a compliment. Hes got a bouncer, a full on that moves enough away from the right hander to make it hard to play, and can go wide on the crease and still move it away.

    Pretty easy to captain, easy to fit in to an attack in several short bursts through the day.

    He’s got some moxy with the bat as well. I honestly think if Jimmy is fit, Woakes shouldn’t play. Hes not going to do anything Jimmy wont, and surely it’s a more balanced attack with on of Stone, Archer, or Wood, depending on who’s fit.


    • dannycricket Jul 24, 2019 / 9:35 pm

      In the last two home seasons, Woakes averages 50.00 with the bat and 28.28 with the ball. In England, it’s hard not to pick him when fit.


      • Quebecer Jul 24, 2019 / 11:33 pm

        I think he will play, but it’s a mistake – in my opinion. Those averages are a little misleading, given that there was one big ton in there, and the amount of runs the opposition have been scoring in England recently means everyone is looking good. But is it really the best balance to include him and omit Archer/Wood/Stone? I think when your three frontline quicks are all sub 85mph, yet you’ve got three properly dangerous 90mph bowlers sitting out, the result might be rather tasty if you’re an Aussie batsman (who”s not called Marsh).


        • dannycricket Jul 25, 2019 / 6:25 am

          English ‘fast’ bowlers aren’t particularly effective in English conditions. Wood averages 92.66 over the last two home seasons, compared to medium-paced Sam Curran who averages 20.62. By all means drop Curran and Woakes abroad, their effectiveness without the Dukes ball or swinging conditions is much reduced, but at home picking Wood (and likely Stone & Archer too) simply won’t be effective. Especially against Australian batsmen, who are brought up facing quick bowlers all of the time but rarely have to go up against swing.


        • dannycricket Jul 26, 2019 / 3:28 pm

          I’d back Woakes over any of those three in England as a specialist bowler. That he can also potentially score big with the bat is a bonus.


  8. Deep Purple Fred Jul 24, 2019 / 10:00 pm

    I suppose something significant/amusing happened today and normally I’d feel moved to make a comment, but after the world cup fiasco, I’ve got nothing. Stupor.
    Mercedes velour chrysanthemum wednesday buckshot were.


    • Quebecer Jul 24, 2019 / 11:37 pm

      “are”, surely, not “were”.

      But as for the score, was it ever going to be any other way? You couldn’t get more quintessential English cricket team.


  9. metatone Jul 25, 2019 / 7:15 am

    Side note : One oddity is that playing county cricket in the early months, with the ball zipping around hasn’t seemed to produce any players who can deal with it well…


  10. dArthez Jul 25, 2019 / 2:14 pm

    How many times are the Irish going to drop Leach?


  11. dArthez Jul 25, 2019 / 3:00 pm

    After a masterclass of batting by Leach (that is an exaggeration, but Leach applied himself and got plenty of reward for it), of all people, the England batsmen since his departure seem to be desperate to throw their wickets away. First a silly run-out, then Bairstow collects a pair.

    So a lead of 49 for the loss of 1 wicket has become a lead of 72 for the loss of 5 wickets.

    It is now up to Root and Curran to get England a decent target. Not counting on Moeen to do much with the bat here (and I am sure he’ll prove me wrong).


  12. dArthez Jul 25, 2019 / 4:23 pm

    I think they are shooting: “Bat like millionaires” today at Lord’s. Lead 126, and just Curran, Broad and Stone left to contribute.


  13. Quebecer Jul 25, 2019 / 4:29 pm

    (248-8) Athens just said Ireland have bowled really well, caught really well… I don’t think so. They’ve bowled standard, dropped catches, misplaced slips. We”re fucked because we can’t bat. So many poor shots, poor decisions, poor technique, it’s unbelievable*.

    *It’s completely believable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • metatone Jul 25, 2019 / 5:01 pm

      I am actually mildly surprised at just how poor we (England) have been with the bat. I know we are often bad, but this has been extraordinarily bad, even for us, IMO.


      • dannycricket Jul 25, 2019 / 5:02 pm

        It’s almost as if the ECB have been totally focussed on succeeding in white ball cricket, to the point where none of the batsmen have the required technique to play a moving ball. Or, with the batsmen being this bad, selectors willing to drop them.


        • metatone Jul 25, 2019 / 5:14 pm

          I don’t think the white ball focus explains everything – look at Burns and Denly.
          (Although of course it has been a while since the last county game, but that’s often true at the start of tours.)


          • dArthez Jul 25, 2019 / 5:23 pm

            If Leach can score 92, playing completely out of position, why can’t no one else (Roy excepted) even make a 40?

            But looks like England have batted out a day. With a little help of the weather gods, and the slow overrate. Against Ireland. This must be a devious ploy to give the Australians some serious overconfidence …


          • Quebecer Jul 25, 2019 / 5:36 pm

            Denny looked our best bat! Poor old Rory Burns (who hasn’t got a run all season) looked the worst, mind you.


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