England v Ireland
Wednesday July 24, 11:00
Live on Sky Sports Cricket
England gear up for Ashes
Six of England's World Cup winning squad transition back to the more staid Test format ahead of the Ashes series. Most notable, though, is Jason Roy, who has been given a chance to open the batting with Surrey teammate Rory Burns.
Roy is a fantastic white ball cricketer and although doubts are justified about his technique when the best bowlers in the world get it to snake around, England, to be frank, have tried everyone else so he's worth a shot.
Two other debutants are possible. Brute pacer Olly Stone is of interest, particularly because Mark Wood and Jofra Archer, injured both, are not part of the Big Six. Lewis Gregory, the Somerset all-rounder, is rewarded for excellent performances in county cricket. Regular watchers of the county game will say about time.
Joe Root, of course, leads with Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes looking to shake the celebratory hangover. Sam Curran is there, too and should play in place of James Anderson who has a calf niggle and surely won't be risked with the Ashes on the horizon.
Ireland have puncher's chance
In time it could rankle that Ireland's most famous cricketer is the man who led England to their first World Cup. A chance, then, for someone to put their hand up.
Most of the Irish squad will be familiar. They resemble a mediocre county unit. Boyd Rankin, Tim Murtagh, Will Porterfield, Paul Stirling and Kevin O'Brien have had decent careers. Stirling is probably vying with Andy Balbirnie for the role of batter-in-chief. O'Brien already has a Test match ton to his name and he is well-known thanks to popping up in franchise tournaments all over the world. Rankin and Murtagh have 1,148 first-class wickets between them.
There is plenty of nous there. As well there might. This is a squad deliberately balanced between the experienced and the not-so experienced. Mark Adair and Craig Young are two green quicks. Adair was slippery in the one-day series against Zimbabwe this month. Big things were expected from Young a few years back and he has been earmarked as the next Rankin. He needs to get on with it, though. He's 29.
Both of Ireland's two Tests have ended in defeat. Against Pakistan they showed plenty of fight – and had them in trouble at 159 for six in the first dig – but they were outplayed by Afghanistan, losing by seven wickets.
Seam and swing early
The average first match-innings total in the last 17 at Lord's is 353. But there has been bend and hooping galore at HQ in recent times which suggest that figure looks a bit toppy.
India were razed for 104 last summer – and were thrashed. England for 184 a few weeks before against Pakistan – and were thrashed. Both those results were significant trend busters. Before that Pakistan game, only two teams had won in the previous 20 when bowling first. It's now four in 22. There should be plenty of assistance, then, for the seam and swing bowlers early on.
Visitors need help from conditions
Ireland's best chance in this four-day Test is, surely, is to win the toss and stick England in and then hope that conditions allow Rankin and Murtagh to work some magic. If the pitch is green and the skies are leaden (early morning thunderstorms have been forecast, the England batsmen, despite Ireland's naif status, will be in for an examination.
So a trade strategy is clear. There's plenty of room in Ireland's price of [40.0] to steal some clicks. And I guess if you're playing at those numbers you're happy with the notion that, unless it does bend, that price could get bigger and bigger in double-quick time.
England, of course, will fancy doing some damage themselves with the new ball that morning and it could get embarrassing for the Irish batsmen. But that's why the hosts are [1.13].
It's got little to do with their form, which is poor. They were beaten 2-1 by West Indies at the start of the year thanks to four awful batting efforts.
Root no fun
It's a shame there's no Ben Stokes or Jos Buttler because we'd be on one of them to down favourite for top England bat in the first innings – Joe Root. Root is no way near a 3/1 (Sportsbook) shot on two-year form. He could be worth a lay on the exchange. Roy gets a 7/2 quote with Burns at 4s. Moeen is a touch, though, at 12s.
Our data has him a shade bigger than 13/2. For Ireland, Stirling and Balbirnie share top-dog status at 10/3. Doughty Gary Wilson catches the eye at 8s.
Anderson is 2/1 for top England bowler in the first dig. Value? No because he has a 22% hit rate in two years and even allowing for the drop in batting standards we can't get involved. Curran and Stone are interesting prices at 5/1 and 6/1 respectively.
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