Bengaluru, July 25: England's World Cup honeymoon was cut short by none other than a low-ranked team like Ireland who, playing in just their third Test as against the formers' 1011th, shot them out for a paltry 85 in the first innings of the one-off match at Lord's on Wednesday.
It was the same venue that England had reached heights of glory 10 days back when they beat New Zealand to lift their maiden World Cup. By getting folded for 85, England were brought back to earth by minnows Ireland.
England still managed to remain in the game at stumps on Day 1 by bowling the Irish out for 207 in their first innings, thanks to three-wicket hauls from pace trio Stuart Broad, Olly Stone and Sam Curran. In the four-day affair, England will have to bat out of their skin to negate the 122-run deficit and score a big total to put their opponents under pressure.
But as England came out to bat in their second essay, many experts were stunned. The home team sent left-arm spinner Matthew Leach as the opener, in what was more of a night-watchman role. Only four Tests old, left-hand bat Leach has an average of less than 10 and he came out with Rory Burns to see off the day. In fact, Leach was made to take the strike against the 37-year-old seamer Tim Murtagh, who floored England with a five-wicket haul for just 13 runs in the first innings.
Though Leach has opened for England in Tests in the past as well (against Sri Lanka in November, 2018), what did their move against Ireland in a home ground signal? Debutant Jason Roy, known to be one of the hardest hitting batsmen in limited-over cricket, opened with Burns in the first innings but he was not seen doing the same in the second. Was he being hidden from the pace of Murtagh? Is this the right advertisement for Test cricket when a limited-over macho hides when it comes to opening for Tests? And that too just after the team became world champions?
When you sign in for a job, you sign in for the easy and for the tough. It is your response to a tough situation that tells the world who you are! https://t.co/79WR3vAuOp— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) July 24, 2019
England's move was not only negative but embarrassing. If an opener can't give the confidence of surviving an over at the fag end of the day and a No.11 (Leach batted at that position in first innings) is being sent up as a night-watchman and that too against Ireland, we can clearly see where the priorities lie.