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!