IMAGE: Ireland celebrate after Jonathan Bairstow is given out by the third umpire. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images
Ireland moved within sight of a remarkable test win over England as they reduced the hosts to 303-9 in their second innings at Lord’s on Thursday to trail by 181 at the end of day two.
After the mayhem of the first day when England were skittled for 85 and 20 wickets fell, the World Cup champions appeared to have seized control when they reached 171 for one early on another sweltering afternoon.
But they lost seven wickets for 77 runs as Ireland, playing in only their third test match ever and first against England, hit back with Mark Adair taking three wickets.
Sam Curran (37) and Stuart Broad (21 not out) frustrated Ireland’s hopes with a counter-attack before flashes of lightning forced the umpires to take the players off.
Ireland, who lost their only two previous matches since gaining test status in 2017, will need to take the last England wicket early on Friday before setting about chasing the total.
IMAGE: Mark Adair celebrates after dismissing England captain Joe Root. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images
Earlier, England’s Jack Leach fell eight runs short of a maiden Test century as Ireland kept alive their victory hopes on the second day of their historic four-day Test.
The spinner, sent in as nightwatchman for the last over of a manic opening day, played superbly to reach 92 before edging Ireland’s first-day hero Tim Murtagh to Mark Adair in the slips.
He had shared in a 145-run partnership with Test debutant Jason Roy that had wiped out England’s 122-run first innings deficit after they were bowled out for 85 and then dismissed Ireland for 207 on a crazy opening day.
Just when it appeared England were seizing control, however, Roy was clean bowled by Stuart Thompson for 72 and Leach went a few overs later.
Joe Denly was run out for 10 after a terrible mix-up with skipper Joe Root before Jonny Bairstow was dismissed for a duck for the second time in the match, leaving England on 209-5 at tea, a precarious lead of 87.
IMAGE: England batsman Jack Leach, left, is congratulated by Jason Roy after reaching his half century. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images
In the morning session, a sense of sanity returned to a sweltering Lord’s as England wiped off their 122-run first innings deficit to Ireland by lunch.
After the 20-wicket mayhem of the previous day when Ireland bowled out England for 85 before being dismissed themselves for 207, the hosts reached the interval on 122-1 with unbeaten half centuries for Jack Leach and Jason Roy.
Leach, sent in as a nightwatchman the previous evening to negotiate one over of England’s second innings, played fluently to reach 60 while Test debutant Jason Roy raced to 52 from 48 balls as the hosts gained the upper hand.
After being stunned on the opening day by a nation playing only their third Test match, England will now be strong favourites to win their one warm-up match before taking on Australia in the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston next week.
IMAGE: Jason Roy hits out. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images
With the mercury rising into the mid-30s Celcius, Ireland’s attack proved far less potent than it had done 24 hours earlier when Londoner Tim Murtagh, who plays for Middlesex, did most of the damage by taking five for 13 on his home Lord’s track.
Ireland’s Boyd Rankin, who once played for England, did make an early breakthrough when under-pressure opener Rory Burns prodded forward and got a thick edge to depart for a disappointing six but it was a morning when batting looked easy.
With England’s opening partnership still a cause for concern ahead of the Ashes, spinner Leach gave a masterclass in Test batting, playing watchfully at first and then tucking into the bad balls when they came along.
Having seen off Murtagh’s spell, Leach began to make hay in the sunshine, striking three boundaries off one Rankin over to take England’s score past 50 — a mark they reached on Wednesday for the loss of seven wickets.
IMAGE: Ireland’s players celebrate after Boyd Rankin, centre, dismissed England opener Rory Burns. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images
Roy, superb throughout England’s triumphant World Cup campaign and now entrusted with leading the charge against Australia, made amends for his cheap dismissal on Wednesday.
He made his intentions clear from the start, getting off the mark by slapping a boundary back past bowler Mark Adair and then a couple of balls later he leathered a sweet cover drive that flashed to the boundary.
Playing with the freedom he usually does when facing the white ball, Roy raced to his maiden Test half century in 47 balls, crashing seven fours and a six on the way.