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Tuesday 20 August 2019

Ireland on the brink of victory

HOWZTHAT: William Porterfield celebrates the fall of Joe Root’s wicket on the second day of the Test at Lord’s. Photo: PA
HOWZTHAT: William Porterfield celebrates the fall of Joe Root’s wicket on the second day of the Test at Lord’s. Photo: PA

William Porterfield will tell his Ireland team this morning that a fabulous first Test match victory is within their grasp after going toe-to-toe with England for a second day at Lord's and coming out on top.

When an approaching thunderstorm ended play 45 minutes early, England were 303-9 - a lead of only 181 - and Ireland's third-day task was clear: mop up that final wicket quickly and then knock off the runs in what should be the best batting conditions of the match.

From the strength of 171-1, and an overall lead of 49, England lost wickets with regularity and when the threat of thunder and lightning drove players from the field the home side held a precarious 181 lead, with their last pair at the crease.

Ireland had struggled for the first half of the hottest July day on record, then just as they should have started to wilt, it was England who felt the heat with seven wickets falling for 77 runs either side of tea, in the best batting conditions of the match.

Sam Curran led a rearguard with a breezy 37 from 29 balls, including a couple of sixes, but when he was caught by James McCollum on the mid-wicket boundary looking to clear the ropes a third time, England's last hope of setting a target upwards of 240 departed.

Deployed

Night watchman Leach, who was deployed to see off one over from Tim Murtagh on Wednesday evening, had accumulated with frustrating ease for someone who usually hears the groundsman's roller starting up when he comes out to bat.

The Somerset tail-ender had averaged 4.66 in nine completed innings this year, but he found little difficulty in navigating his way through the morning session as England wiped the 122-run arrears for the loss of fellow opener Rory Burns, who nicked off to Boyd Rankin.

Murtagh nagged away but was unable to breach Leach's defences as he had in the first innings.

The rest of the Irish attack looked ineffectual and as Jason Roy helped Leach add 145 it appeared as if England would disappear out of sight.

Roy, though, was beaten by a ball from Stuart Thompson that nipped back and bowled him for 70 and after being dropped twice, the first a bad miss on 72 by wicketkeeper Gary Wilson, Leach was finally held at second slip off Murtagh for 92.

As Ireland applied the squeeze, a mix-up between the Joes led to Root running out Denly as the latter was sent back and failed to beat a quick, accurate throw over the bowler's stumps from Kevin O'Brien at mid-wicket.

Ireland sensed an opportunity and Mark Adair stepped up to take it, slipping one past Jonny Bairstow's bat for an lbw decision and a pair of ducks for the World Cup winner, tempting Root to chase a wide one and finding another edge into the cordon from Chris Woakes.

"As a unit we had to stick together," Adair said.

"There wasn't much swing out there or help from the pitch so we just had to keep going and be patient."

Curran's onslaught took the fourth innings chase from 'straightforward' into 'interesting' territory but if Ireland prevent the lead stretching much past 200, they will be favourites.

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