Cricket Captain 2020 – We Left it Late to be Great in Season Eight!

Okay, so ‘great’ might be stretching it, we won only two white-ball games all season and fared little better in the red ball environment… but somehow we retained our place in division one by the skin of our teeth!

As is often the case, we started well, winning our first three County Championship matches. The wheels then not only came off but rolled down the hill and out of sight! Quite how our T20 then One-Day form was so bad, I have no idea. Given the improvements we’d made in recent seasons, it was extremely frustrating. Australian Josh Phillipe was a particular disappointment but to be fair, he fared little worse than anybody else. We finished bottom of our group in both white-ball competitions with just a solitary win in each format.

And so it came down to the final few games of the County Championship. The scorecard above details how young Greg Birch, with only a couple of First Class games to his name, roared to match figures off 11-87 to seemingly preserve our division one status. Sadly we collapsed to just 88 all out in pursuit of only 104 for victory. At this point and following the trauma of such an up and down match, I thought that we’d been relegated by just 16 runs. I then realised that we had one game left and it happened to be a winner takes all relegation play-off against neighbours Derbyshire, who had a 3 (It might’ve been 5) point advantage.

Joe Root was selected for only the second time in half a decade and made 51 returning to his roots as an opener. Matt Fisher (4-79), recalled after taking eleven wickets in a second XI game, restricted the hosts to only a small lead after they’d looked set for a match-defining one. James Wharton, who despite his horror show as white-ball captain had performed well (With bat and ball) in the County Championship, set the tone with 77. Josh Phillipe (50) after a quiet few innings, dug deep as we fought the opposition and the rain. It was Fisher (4-50) again who ripped through Derbyshire second time around to send them down to division two. Having sunk into the relegation zone, we’d looked doomed but a combination of youth and experience had saved us.

The emergence of a number of young pace bowlers, not least the aforementioned Birch, means that we say goodbye to Ben Coad and Sam Cook. The money saved by releasing those players allows us to invest heavily in coaching/physio facilities and crucially youth development. Josh Phillipe will return next year. The Australian played some crucial knocks in First Class cricket but will hope to demonstrate his white-ball prowess more in 2028. 26-year-old off-spinning all-rounder Oliver Price has joined the squad and will hope to make a belated professional debut.

Farewell Joe, Welcome Joe!

The time has come for England to move on from Joe Denly. Denly has fought hard and contributed useful innings but he’s also been extremely (And I mean extremely) lucky. You only have to count the amount of times that he’s been dropped (I mean by fielders) in his career.

With Joe Root certain to return to the England side the following batting line-up: Burns, Sibley, Crawley, Root, Stokes and Pope can not only hopefully be a top six for a number of years but have provided enough evidence to suggest that we can do more than hope.

As for Denly, the likes of James Hildreth and Sam Northeast amongst others will despair at the opportunities that he’s had. I’ll say it again though, Denly has contributed and he’s tried his best but with Dan Lawrence and co. waiting in the wings, it’s time to put a full stop on Denly’s Test career.

Ball Games!

Test Cricket returns tomorrow when England host West Indies at Southampton. Whether or not it should really be classed as Test status is debatable. Yes, Test cricketers will be playing but they’ve prepared by playing intra-squad matches and there’ll be no spectators in the ground. It is of course arguable that fans could attend and maintain social distancing however it’s more the getting there (Unnecessary risks on public transport etc) and getting in and out of the ground that are the problem.

West Indies are short of a few players. It’s perfectly understandable that some players, at least one of whom has suffered tragedy in his life, doesn’t want to tour England. Two of the absent players hail from Guyana where until recently at least, there hadn’t been many deaths. That may have changed as Coronavirus gains a grip on the Americas but it’s easy to comprehend that they didn’t want to visit a country where there’ve been thousands upon thousands of deaths, even if a little digging might suggest that a lot of those deaths have been in care homes. Of course BAME personnel do seem to be more vulnerable.

England will also be deprived of a player in the shape of their captain Joe Root. That possibly earns Joe Denly a reprieve and means that England’s batsmen will be competing against each other. Ben Stokes will lead England against a West Indies side who have some exciting young players in and around their squad.

West Indies have been written off before, only to show England up. Let’s hope for some competitive cricket to feast upon once again. Whether or not there’ll be artificial crowd noise like in the football we’ll have to wait and see.

May I take this opportunity to thank anybody and everybody for visiting my blog. You might like to visit my football blog http://www.leftbackfooty.com Please do… because nobody is!

Double (Or Triple?) Trouble!

There’s a suggestion that if any international cricket is played in the near future that England could field multiple teams in order to play different formats on the same day.

Now whether or not that would be a crossover between red and white ball cricket or that ODI and T20I could clash obviously remains unclear. Let’s assume that each and every format was being played on the same day. Who makes which team? Oh, and for ease we’ll select for matches played in England… at the risk of being rather optimistic!

Test

Rory Burns

Dominic Sibley

Zak Crawley

Joe Root (Captain)

Ollie Pope

Sam Curran

Ben Foakes (Wicketkeeper)

Mark Wood

Jack Leach

Stuart Broad

James Anderson

Sam Northeast

Jamie Porter

ODI

Dawid Malan (Captain)

Tom Banton

James Vince

Sam Hain

Dan Lawrence

Sam Billings (Wicketkeeper)

Craig Overton

Lewis Gregory

Oly Stone

Saqib Mahmood

Matt Parkinson

Liam Livingstone

David Willey

Dom Bess

T20I (Which I’ve prioritised over ODI due to the impending World Cup)

Jason Roy

Jos Buttler (Wicketkeeper)

Jonny Bairstow

Eoin Morgan (Captain)

Ben Stokes

Moeen Ali

Tom Curran

Chris Jordan

Chris Woakes

Jofra Archer

Adil Rashid

Phil Salt

Joe Denly

Pat Brown

What are your thoughts on my selections? What would you do differently?

Cricket 19: Fourth Umpire… If Only!

Three days ago at Lords, eleven men became France’s first ever Test cricketers. Captain Xavier Le Tallec called heads but it was tails that faced skyward when the coin settled on the ground. On a frighteningly verdant deck, home skipper Joe Root had no hesitation in opting to bowl.

Left-handed batsman Jean-Luc Chevalier had the honour of facing the first ball in France’s Test history and immediately grasped the honour of scoring the team’s first ever run. Unfortunately soon after that he had another honour… that of being the first France wicket to fall in the history of Test cricket. Chevalier (5) pushed a little too hard at an over the wicket delivery from Stuart Broad (1-29), got turned inside out and edged to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler who gleefully snaffled the catch.

Fellow opener Enzo Petit, fresh from fifties in each innings against Middlesex on the same ground, was joined at the crease by Gilles Smith. The pair repelled the England attack until DRS drama intervened to shatter French dreams. In his first over, Jofra Archer successfully appealed for an LBW against Smith. It looked out but after some deliberation Smith opted to review, seemingly in hope more than anything. Replays soon confirmed however that the right-hander had actually hit the ball prior to impact with his pads. It might’ve been the back of the bat and barely a scrape but it was enough to merit a reversal. A stunned crowd audibly gasped when Smith (19) was given out once again on the big screen. He pleaded his case with the umpire and though we understand the fine dished out and the reasons why, we remain disappointed by it, as I know that many in the cricket community are. It wouldn’t be our last occasion in the match to be underwhelmed by the standard of officiating!

All-rounder Gabin Sauvage (8) survived alongside Petit (30) until the final delivery pre-drinks when the latter edged a beauty of a delivery from Ben Stokes (1-17) to Buttler… who dropped a pretty regulation chance! I’m sure that the beverages tasted better at 59-2 than they would’ve another wicket down.

Buttler’s butterfingers mattered little however as a promising beginning only led to an embarrassing collapse of epic proportions! 68-2 became 104-9 as our batsmen found all manner of ways to get out, namely playing unnecessarily attacking shots as the application we’d applied up to that point evaporated. Included in those dismissals were Zidane Thomas, run out for a third ball duck and captain Xavier Le Tallec, who had his stumps castled first ball by spinner Dom Bess (4-33). To say that those dismissals were an inglorious start to their Test careers would be an understatement. Last men standing Alexandre Rivière (11*) and Mehdi Qadri swung handsomely to at least ensure that we avoided the ignominy of being bowled out before lunch on our first day of Test cricket. 133-9 were the specifics come salad serving.

One ball after the interval and our first innings had reached its conclusion, Qadri (17) wildly edging to slip off Jofra Archer (2-9).

Rivière had the honour of claiming our nation’s first Test wicket when an unconvincing Dominic Sibley (5) edged an unplayable delivery to Zvonimir Pitko at Gully. The muscular Pitko displayed agility and rapid reflexes to execute a stunning catch. Joe Denly (16) played a couple of glorious shots but was run out courtesy of sharp work by Marwan Leroy behind the stumps. As our players appealed for LBW against Rory Burns, Denly scurried to the other end. Replays suggested that he’d completed the run but maybe the umpires were evening things out when they flashed ‘OUT’ on the board, much to Denly’s chagrin.

Despite regular edges that just wouldn’t carry, England progressed from 51-2 all the way to 203-2 courtesy of Burns and captain Joe Root. In the final session we turned to spin and after Qadri had bowled a promising premier over, with only his third delivery skipper Le Tallec rapped Burns on the pads. The left-hander was on 99 as the ball ricocheted off his pad, clearly hit his bat and was expertly caught by Leroy running forward. Burns didn’t move and the decision went upstairs. An LBW decision was rejected by the third umpire. Fair enough but what about the catch? The officials blatantly ignored it and as with the Smith decision in our innings we were left aghast. Our players had dug deep to find a breakthrough. Our captain had stepped up with a clever tactical change by introducing spin with Burns on 99 but the system or/and the officials had failed us and the sport as a whole.

Despite his reprieve it would be spin that extinguished Burns’ night. In truth the Surrey stalwart played an inexplicably poor shot that was swallowed by Sauvage at square leg. Burns fell for 110 and England were on double nelson three wickets down.

Surprisingly spin continued to dominate at Lords. Le Tallec (1-13) got the wicket he deserved when he forced Ben Stokes (7) to drag onto his stumps. England recovered from the departure of the Durham man and reached 240-4 at the close, 107 runs to the good. Root and Ollie Pope elevated England to 315-4 when the latter, on 41 at the time, should have been run out. Mehdi Qadri (1-52) inexplicably failed to break the stumps from just inches away. After the pair had compiled 112 in each other’s company, Alexandre Riviere required only three deliveries with the new cherry to induce Pope’s (52) edge and Leroy claimed a good diving catch.

Sam Curran (27*) was promoted ahead of Jos Buttler and alongside Root (177*) raised England to 405-5 come the declaration. Riviere (2-62) was the pick of the bowlers but messrs Pierre (0-67), Thomas (0-90) and Sauvage (0-88) endured tough Test initiations.

We commenced our second innings effectively -272-0!

By the time the first wicket went down that deficit had been reduced to 195 as Chevalier and Petit restored French pride. The duo constructed a hugely encouraging opening stand of 77 before Chevalier (18) was bowled by Ben Stokes. I have huge sympathy for Chevalier because such was Enzo Petit’s dominance of the strike that it wasn’t easy for an instinctive stroke player like him and he just lost his rhythm a little. At the time the left-hander was bowled by the 22nd delivery that he received (He didn’t score off his final four) Petit had faced 49 balls, more than double Chevalier. Still, the pair had put on 77 for the first wicket to plant seeds of optimism for the future of French cricket.

Frustratingly Petit (56) was caught behind in the final over of the session. He seemed surprised by the removal of Archer from the attack and change of ends and angle for Curran. You could debate over the choice of shot let alone the execution of the pull but Petit deserves nothing but praise for his efforts both in the warm-up matches and our first ever Test. 100-2 still 172 runs behind was the scenario at tea and scones on day two.

After the interval Sauvage (3) soon succumbed to Curran, caught off a leading edge that ballooned to mid-on. Shortly after Sauvage’s demise Smith (27) naively fell to Bess’ first over of spin, caught on the boundary by that man Curran when a score of substance seemed on the table.

We’d slipped to 114-4 but Zvonimir Pitko and Zidane Thomas began building a partnership that soon had even the home fans on their side. The duo showcased their discipline as well as array of stroke play and had added 142 when Thomas was plumb LBW to Bess’ first ball of a new spell. It was typical that Thomas’ (65) run-a-ball knock ended with him trying to defend when he may have been better attempting to score.

Leroy (1) fell in the same over bringing Le Tallec to the crease. The skipper avoided the ignominy of a pair on Test debut but nicked to the slips off the returning Curran (3-48) to be outstandingly caught by his opposing number Root for just a single.

Patrick Pierre (1) was foolishly run out before Alexandre Riviere smashed back-to-back maximums straight up off Bess. Those strikes ensured that England would have to bat again and we’d avoided an innings defeat (With a little help from a declaration!) on our Test bow.

Bess (5-51) got sweet revenge when Riviere fell for 25 off only eight deliveries before Pitko (73) was out next ball. To avoid an innings defeat was a superb effort from the team but 289 was a disappointing score having been 256-4. England required 18 runs to win the first Test. After limiting the score to just 3-0 from one over we did at least take the game into a third day.

Despite a few LBW shouts and an edge through the slips England won by all ten wickets.

We started well with the bat but lost our way. We stuck to task with the ball then committed as a unit with the bat second time around. Yes we collapsed in all too familiar fashion in both innings but three of our top six recorded fifties and we had two partnerships of real substance. That bodes well for the immediate future. Next up we host England for out first ever Test match on home shores. Gabin Sauvage and Patrick Pierre may be sweating over their places as we look to square the series. I’d like to provide players with plenty of opportunities but it may be necessary to freshen things up. We’ll take a look at the surface before making a decision. We can’t wait to entertain a home crowd who will have had their appetite wetted by a brave display at Lords.

Cricket 19: GODII – Semi-final

Only days after defeating the Dutch on home turf in London we jetted to neutral territory in the form of Perth, Australia to take them on once again in the first Global One-Day International Invitational semi-final.

We made one alteration to the playing XI that prospered in match 14 with Jofra Archer replacing the unfortunate Tom Curran. Archer’s inclusion ensured that we had all bases covered in terms of speed, swing, right and left-arm bowling for what looked an intriguing deck in Western Australia. Contrary to perceived wisdom we opted to bat first after Netherlands called incorrectly at the coin flip.

What followed was a haphazard batting performance that undermined all that we had achieved upto this point. Jonny Bairstow was run out for 3 which begun a procession of wickets and left us in peril on 77-7 on Perth’s unpredictable surface. Only an eighth-wicket partnership of 56 between James Hildreth (36) and Jofra Archer (38) lifted us to an ugly 136 all out. Paceman Paul van Meekeren claimed 3-40 while spinner Pluto Schmidt registered figures of 2-7.

Netherlands reached 28 without loss to put themselves firmly in control but slipped to 39-4 in a passage of breathtaking cricket. Chris Woakes fed the hands of James Hildreth twice and Moeen Ali had the thinnest edge in history pouched by wicketkeeper Jos Buttler from his second delivery after the skipper had dropped one off the bowler’s first. There was also a run out courtesy of a sensational throw from the boundary by Jofra Archer. The Dutch recovered somewhat but when Pluto Schmidt (22) needlessly fell to Liam Trevaskis attempting an unnecessary and unorthodox shot they looked in trouble again at 86-6. Bryan Long (26) and Suman Engels (23 not out) steadied the ship but Joe Root of all people prized out Long before Lewis Gregory returned to claim the eighth wicket with Netherlands on 121. Fred Klaassen (5 not out) saw them home alongside Engels however to take the Dutch to the inaugural Global ODI Invitational and send us packing.

Having won the North Western Hemisphere Test Championship to lose at the semi-final stage of the GODII was a bitter pill to swallow but we only have ourselves to blame for not applying ourselves better with the bat. Congratulations to the Netherlands who although we pushed them hard thoroughly deserved to win.

Netherlands, led by Bryan Long’s 98 not out, would go onto thrash an insipid Hong Kong in the final.

Disclaimer/Excuse: A recent patch has made the game harder. With a wife and children constantly walking around the room and clambering all over me I didn’t apply myself with the bat as I needed to. I’m going to play the game in shorter more committed chunks in future in order to post competitive totals. I also intend to take more control over field placings and possibly play on the hardest level. Having concluded my custom Test/ODI competitions I just need to decide how I’m going to play the game going forward.

Who Should Captain England? – The Results

Screenshot 2019-12-04 at 19.48.24

The results of my latest poll are in and… errr, we’re none the wiser!

To be fair to Joe Root, he’s tied at the top so possibly deserves to retain his place. Most of the votes were submitted in between the first and second Test in Aotearoa, so after England lost and before Root struck 226 as England drew the second match. I’m not convinced that this should effect whether or not he retains the captaincy. Of course Root was never likely to be stripped of the role mid-winter but with such a cramped international schedule the seasons almost role into one. Could a hiding in South Africa result in Root being out of a job (Or at least one of his roles) come Spring?

The alternatives are limited though. I backed Jos Buttler (As a player not to be captain) for the New Zealand series but South Africa may be the right time to get behind Ben Foakes as gloveman with Ollie Pope returning to solely batting duties. Is Ben Stokes fit enough to assume the role? Is Rory Burns proven and, not meaning to be rude, but respected enough by his teammates just yet to take on the burden? Would it really help Stuart Broad and the team to make him skipper?

Of course the system doesn’t really allow a player to be groomed as captain. The best players make their respective international sides when still young before domestic captaincy opportunities have presented themselves. If a player lingers at county or state level and does well as captain then they’re playing catch up in regards to proving themselves as international cricketers once selected.

Root will lead England in South Africa and likely for years to come. I’ll back him but like many I’m not convinced that leadership comes naturally to him. Just because his teammates like him isn’t really a good enough reason for him to remain captain, particularly when the side isn’t in the habit of winning!

Who Should Captain the England Test Team in South Africa?

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Following a heavy defeat in the first Test in New Zealand the question marks over Joe Root’s captaincy are now firmly written in bold font and possibly in red ink! Root registered his lowest Test aggregate score, dropped out of the top ten batsmen in the world for the first time in five years (I’m surprised that it’s taken that long!) and was once again lacking inspiration in the field.

Does the Yorkshireman remain the best man to lead England or would he and the team as a whole be best served if he returned to being just one of the ranks?

Such a move has the potential to rid Root of the additional strain of leadership and allow him to thrive as the high quality batsman that we know he can be though in turn it obviously burdens someone else… or possibly brings out the best in them. Captaincy certainly isn’t bringing out the best in Joe Root.

Ben Stokes is currently vice-captain, Jos Buttler has stood in for limited overs matches, Stuart Broad has captained England in T20Is and Rory Burns is a County Championship winning captain.

Who do you think should lead England?

Cricket 19: NWHTC – Final Fling in the Valleys!

After ten rounds in the ring, or possibly cricket ground, two teams travelled to Wales to fight it out for the right to be crowned inaugural North Western Hemisphere Test Champion. An administrative error meant that the awe-inspiring Ottawa Oval in Canada had been double booked and so a quaint little ground in Glamorgan was the neutral territory selected to host the final between Scotland and ourselves. If nothing else, carbon emissions were limited and Greta could at least raise a smile!

Scotland had of course performed the double over us during the round robin stage, chasing down in excess of 400 on both occasions. Provided such history and having been presented with a lush swing inducing green deck, it was no surprise that having benefited from the fall of the coin, Scotland opted to insert us into bat on the grand finale’s premier morning.

To a chorus of rapturous applause from both the locals and travelling fans, opening batsmen Dawid Malan and Haseeb Hameed bounded to the wicket in confident mood but aware of the stern challenges that lay before them. Hameed, fresh from scores of 102 and 90 against Netherlands will have been disappointed to fall for only 20 in the final. Following a century of his own in said match, Dominic Sibley reverted to type with a promising but unfulfilling 38. Malan (74) continued to justify his selection as opener but like skipper Joe Root (84) will have been disappointed not to make a ton on such a magnificent occasion. Moeen Ali, excellent in all facets both in the final and the competition as a whole, made 65 but Sam Curran (4) missed out. It was a great shame for the Surrey youngster given his swashbuckling contributions in the competition up to that point. Chris Woakes (14), Jamie Overton (23), Stuart Broad (28) and James Anderson (10) all made handy contributions alongside a fine Jonny Bairstow (65 not out). There were contributions from throughout the batting line-up but it was disappointing that nobody went big and thus 427 only seemed a par total against a Scotland side that have regularly been amongst the runs during the NWHTC. Spin bowler Martin Law (3-96) and pace bowler Abdulrahmann Egan (3-111) stuck to task with the ball to claim three wickets apiece.

Having batted so well in the league stage of the tournament, Scotland simply failed to show up in the final. Opening batsman Mahdi Clay top scored with 42 as the Saltires crumbled from 90-2 to just 196 all out. Moeen (3-28) led the way with Broad (2-47) and Curran (2-23) collecting two wickets each. Our varied attack that consisted of pace, swing, spin as well as a mixture of right and left-arm helped keep Scotland on their toes and unable to settle. The efficient Martin Law was left stranded not out on 39. Some great bowling changes as well as an excellent decision review by Root helped limit Scotland’s total.

We opted to enforce the follow-on and Scotland were soon in trouble once again. First innings top scorer Clay was amateurishly run out for just 6 (Village!) and Scotland were soon 59-4 staring down the barrel at an innings loss. Once again Root was on the money with his bowling changes as the likes of Overton and Moeen struck almost if not immediately. Finally resistance came in the shape of Gene Moore (88) and Dorian Burke (73) as the right-hand/left-hand pair batted out the day before lifting the score to 205-4 on the third morning.

It seemed almost certain that we would be set a tricky total to chase but having spent the night dreaming of scoring a match-defining century in the final, Moore (88) was run out after fine work from Malan and Root on the boundary. Stuart Broad (4-46) then ran riot dismissing Law (2) in the same over followed by Skinner (1) and Watt (3) in the overs that followed.

It was the economical James Anderson (12.3-2-23-2) who had the honour of sealing the inaugural North Western Hemisphere Test Championship when he dismantled Carter Scott’s stumps to seal victory by an innings and six runs.

Defeat was a sickener for the Scots having beaten us in both round robin matches but they flatlined in the final. Despite not quite been at our most ruthless with the bat and becoming sloppy in the field during the Moore/Burke partnership, our batsmen outperformed the opposition including finally getting on top of the spin combo of Law and Watt whilst our bowlers made breakthroughs at regular and crucial intervals.

The team, both players and backroom staff are honoured to claim this title and would like to place on record our support for the… support of our fans. As a reward for your undying support all official merchandise both in store and online has a 20% markdown for the immediate future and the players will be holding a meet and great at Lords in the next week or so.

I’d like to place on record my praise of the players in particular captain Joe Root whose captaincy has evolved greatly during the competition culminating in final success. Moeen Ali (824 runs at 63.38 and 28 wickets @ 24.14) beat off stiff competition most notably from the likes of Haseeb Hameed and Sam Curran to be named Player’s Player of the Competition.

Disclaimer: Unlike most match reports of recent times, this one was written entirely post match. Playing such match was obviously spread over a reasonable period of time with a lot of ‘life’ sandwiched in-between, hence it may not seem as in depth as other match reports. It’s a better way of playing the game though and slightly less obsessive way of writing up the report.

Cricket 19: NWHTC – Follow Me!

Captain Joe Root won the toss and chose to bat on an emerald green deck. The promise of sun gleamed run-producing days outweighing the early threat of swing, in our minds at least.

Dawid Malan (21) and Haseeb Hameed (12) applied themselves well at first in what felt like a proper Test match, such was the quality of the bowling courtesy of Tim Murtagh and Jerome Carpenter as well the magnitude of the occasion. Unfortunately both batsmen played appallingly out of place and particularly in Hameed’s case, out of character shots and were caught in the field off the bowling of Stanislav Tobin (1-25) and Murtagh respectively.

Debutant Dominic Sibley (42) soon showed why so many have craved his presence in the team. The right-hander timed the ball with grace all around the wicket and soon looked at home in the house of Test match cricket. The Warwickshire man struck three boundaries in the first over after drinks from Kaylan Ortiz (1-61) but then nicked behind to wicketkeeper Stuart Poynter when defending in the same over.

Moeen Ali joined Joe Root and arguably our player of the tournament so far (Sam Curran might argue!) helped rescue a hodgepodge morning from 84-3 to a more assertive 180-3 at lunch. The fluent batsmen feasted upon Ireland’s back-up bowlers with our skipper passing fifty for the eighth time in the tournament.

Post pasta Root and Moeen plowed on in measured fashion against some tight bowling from Ireland’s spin contingent.

The England skipper finally reached what had up to then remained an elusive North Western Hemisphere Test Championship century. With a positive result in this match certain to put us in the final and leave Ireland out of reach, it was a heck of a time for Joe to rise to the occasion.

Moeen (99) however fell in the nineties once again when… once again, trying to bring up three figures with an unnecessarily expansive shot. On a sun-kissed strip Arthur Munoz was the beneficial bowler as Moeen was made to Irish stew on what could’ve been. The partnership between Root and Moeen totalled 193 but Root (100) was caught behind off Paul Sterling without adding to his score and suddenly 277-3 slumped to 287-5.

Fears of a collapse were soon put to one side as Jonny Bairstow and Sam Curran danced to their own tune (And tempo!) in Dublin. The positive pair propelled the score to 350-5 come teatime with each wicket curiously coming courtesy of a different bowler.

In the day’s final passage of play Bairstow (50) hustled to a welcome half-century and a stand of 96 with Curran before being rather inelegantly bowled by Murtagh (2-135). Jos Buttler made the most of some inviting field settings to Irish cream a quick fire 31 before Gabriel Davis (1-74) claimed his wicket. Chris Woakes then assumed his place at the crease and soon found Irish climes to his taste. Woakes looked as good as anybody on the day and had made 42 when raising a fifty stand with a rampant but briefly backseated Curran.

Almost predictably Curran (115) brought up a second Test ton of the tournament to further demonstrate his insatiable talent. Sadly a full toss from Munoz proved his undoing soon after. Warwickshire’s Woakes went on to make an authority stating 68 but fell to Munoz (3-125) in the same over as Curran.

Jamie Overton (10) and Stuart Broad (17*) made sure that everybody reached double figures before the former was caught off Sterling (2-71). The luckless Carpenter (0-75), who like Murtagh bowled extremely well early in the piece, cruelly ended wicketless. The cumulative sum of our efforts totalled a formidable 569.

By the end of a pulsating first day Ireland had raced along to 33-1. Captain Pittman (2) the man to fall when he nicked behind off Broad. Gloveman for this match Buttler didn’t need to move an inch to take the catch.

Immediately on the second morning Joe Root displayed his developing captaincy capacity by applying the shock factor of using Jonny Bairstow as a bowler. The Yorkshireman, free of wicketkeeping duties, promptly recorded a wicket maiden with Ayonide Barry (7) the batsman suffering the horrible ignominy. Bairstow (1-26) basked in the Irish sun and the knowledge that he’d forever be a Test wicket taker just like McGrath, Walsh or Imran Khan!

Paul Sterling and Josiah McDonaugh then defied our bowlers with Sterling his usual attacking self. Once again however it was a bowling change that led to a wicket as Sam Curran returned to strike with the first ball of a new spell. For the second time in the innings Buttler didn’t need to move an inch as Sterling succumbed for a shamrocking 86. Ortiz was bowled for 1 in the same Curran (2-53) over before Poynter (4) fell to Moeen’s first delivery on Irish soil. England’s two best players of the competition were battling hard for the MVP mantle. 127-1 had become 134-5 as the luck of the Irish appeared to have been lost in the Irish Sea.

After the beverage break Root was immediately at it again, this time bringing Woakes (1-33) back into the attack to have Tobin (3) caught low at slip by the skipper himself. Gabriel Davis then joined McDonaugh and the pair halted the procession with an assured 59-run stand. Jamie Overton (1-48) eventually got in on the action though by sending McDonaugh’s (84) stumps cartwheeling as a second Irish batter couldn’t quite reach three figures. Nonetheless it had been an excellent display of batsmanship by McDonaugh, more measured than the ultra-aggressive Sterling but providing a beautiful contrast.

With only fourteen more runs added Munoz (7) was run out despite the throw originally going to the wrong end. A tracer bullet from Buttler soon had the ball down the other end however and Munoz was done for.

Davis was worked over at times but went on to make a more than useful 39 before Moeen (2-56) turned one past his outside edge and clipped the top of off stump. The fall of Davis saw Moeen rise to 200 Test wickets. Number eleven Murtagh joined Carpenter at the crease with Ireland placed at 257-9. Carpenter (60) defied our bowlers and batted like a top order player in a last-wicket stand of 70 alongside Murtagh (31*). Their combined effort lifted Ireland to 327 before Broad (2-60), new ball in hand, followed up a couple of full deliveries with a shorter one that Carpenter inside edged to Buttler.

Having used our spinners with the old ball before Broad’s wicket and only a few overs left in the day, we opted to enforce the follow-on and send Ireland into bat once again still 242 runs from parity. Pittman and Sterling symmetrically accumulated eight runs from twelve deliveries to reach the close at 16-0, the deficit down to just 226!

Midway through the second over of the third day and the first delivery that Overton bowled to Pittman, the Irish captain edged to Buttler for just 8 to complete a disappointing match for the home skipper. Sterling (17) perished in similar fashion to the same Overton (2-34)/Buttler combination before Ireland proceeded to self-implode on home turf. First McDonaugh (4) called for a single from the non-striker’s end but Hameed threw down his stumps from gully before the Irishman could make his ground. Barry (14) then completed a torrid match by being run out by Buttler having been bowled out by Bairstow in the first innings. Ortiz and Poynter batted well however to restore home pride and move the score on from 51-4 to 88 before the latter inside edged to an athletic diving Buttler off Curran.

Chris Woakes (1-38) trapped Tobin LBW for 1 having dismissed the same batsman for only 3 less than twenty four hours earlier. Soon after that Curran (2-38) sent Davis’ (7) stumps flying in all directions before Ortiz passed fifty courtesy of some overthrows.

Ortiz didn’t stop there and with the obdurate application of Munoz alongside him made it all the way to 91 and within sight of a Test ton in Dublin. Cue captain Root and his now not so secret weapon Jonny Bairstow (1-4). Ortiz’s timbers were soon toppled and a partnership of 66 broken. Carpenter (8) thick edged Broad (1-64) to Curran in the slips before Murtagh (10*) helped Munoz drag the score to 202.

Munoz (18) became the third run out victim in the innings and he himself was dismissed in such fashion for the second time in the match. It was a disappointing end to a stoic 71-ball vigil but limp second innings effort from Ireland. Ortiz’s 91 represented 45% of Ireland’s second innings score as we claimed victory by an innings and 40 runs.

Victory guarantees us a place in the final and presents an opportunity to rest some players ahead of the grand showpiece against Scotland. Though great for us it’s a shame for the tournament as a whole and in particular the fans that there isn’t more on the line in the final round of matches.

Disclaimer: Apologies if some of the images have quite prominent lines on them. They were taken under artificial light so particularly if viewing in colour on a larger screen can look a bit weird!