2019 was an incredible summer for English cricket. A World Cup final victory to end all World Cup final victories was quickly followed by a thrilling Ashes series, the centrepiece of which was one of the greatest Test innings of all time.
In amongst it all, though, was a fantastic spectacle that has since slipped under the radar somewhat. In late July, England hosted Ireland for the first-ever Test match between the two nations. The home side elected to rest a few of their key players but that did absolutely nothing to detract from a superb advertisement for the red-ball game.
It was a game that had everything: a Murtagh-inspired England collapse, the birth of Jack Leach’s batting alter-ego, and some genuine wizardry from Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad with a dark new dukes ball. For some time, it looked for all the world like Ireland were set to do the unthinkable – turn England over on their own patch in the game’s purest form.
The world’s strongest nations do occasionally come unstuck against those less well known for their cricketing prowess in the shorter forms but this was different. T20 is sometimes described as a ‘leveller’ and it is generally accepted that the longer forms of the game make it far more likely that the better team will come out on top.
Anyone who subscribes to that particular way of thinking will have had two thoughts running through their heads during the first day or two of this inspiring Irish display: either that theory is a load of nonsense or Ireland are clearly a better side than many give them credit. On the evidence of their display here, the second is far more accurate.
Missed our interview with the England captain Joe Root, check out the latest episode of ‘The Shackles Are Off’ podcast…
Re-watching the game after the event does a few things. Firstly, it reminds us all that last summer really was a treat. The fact that this fixture is hardly talked about goes to show just how much drama we were all treated to from May to September. Secondly, it allows England fans to truly appreciate how well Ireland played.
That particular aspect may have been lost on a few last summer when it looked as though England’s Ashes preparations were about to be scuppered by our friends across the Irish sea. Now, it’s a lot easier to applaud their seamers’ first-innings efforts knowing that we’re not going to get turned over.
Finally, this game is a good one to watch during our current predicament. It reminds us that every game of cricket has its own unique narrative, even when the names involved may not necessarily be those of the household variety. World Cup finals and Headingley epics have their place, for sure, but this Test match was right up there for sheer edge-of-your-seat action.
Here’s hoping that Ireland can get a few more outstanding displays under their belts when cricket resumes. We’ll meet again, and there’s plenty to suggest that those future fixtures will be worth tuning in for.
If you’ve only got time for one, the highlights of the first day are a must watch…