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Adair has a ball as Ireland turn up the heat

 

Bowled over: Mark Adair of Ireland celebrates dismissing England captain Joe Root
Bowled over: Mark Adair of Ireland celebrates dismissing England captain Joe Root
Tim Murtagh takes the wicket of Jack Leach

Ian Callender

Ireland are still in with a chance of claiming a sensational first Test victory after a superb comeback restricted England's lead to 181 when day two of the Lord's Test was cut short by 48 minutes by thunder and lightning.

Joe Root's side have one wicket left which could still be the difference between victory and defeat but for the second day in a row, the Ireland bowlers were the heroes of a fascinating day's cricket. They have certainly not looked out of place on their Test match debut at the Home of Cricket.

Mark Adair may have been overshadowed by Tim Murtagh's five-wicket haul on day one, when England were shot out before lunch for 85, but yesterday he was Ireland's star performer and doubled his wicket tally with another three. And he deserved more.

The Holywood debutant was well supported by Stuart Thompson, who ended the second-wicket stand of 145 between nightwatchman Jack Leach and Jason Roy and then, just as crucially, had late dasher Sam Curran caught on the mid-wicket boundary after the Surrey all-rounder had hit 37 from just 29 balls as England regained late momentum.

Boyd Rankin was expensive but dangerous and also finished with two wickets, thanks to catches from Gary Wilson, who, apart from one glaring miss, had a faultless two days behind the stumps, while Murtagh had to be content with just one wicket yesterday but was the most economical bowler and a constant threat.

It would be harsh to call North West Warriors skipper Andy McBrine a weak link - spinners are not usually needed until the third day of a Test match - but although he didn't take a wicket, he was never dominated by the England batsmen and gave the pacemen a welcome breather on a day when temperatures at Lord's topped 36 degrees.

If Ireland miss out narrowly on victory today - only rain can prevent a three-day finish - they will look back on Wilson's drop off Leach when the nightwatchman was on 72, and the chance given by Root when the England captain was on 19.

The edge to first slip fell fractionally short but Paul Stirling was so fine that he can only have seen the ball late and it gave him no chance of getting forward to scoop up the catch. Added together, they cost 32 runs.

The England star, no question, was Leach. In his previous 19 first-class innings, he had totalled 69 runs at an average of 4.3. He had two half centuries to his name for Somerset but 66 was his previous best and only when he was within eight runs of a century did he show any nerves.

His partnership with Roy frustrated Ireland for almost three hours and highlighted the vagaries of Test cricket. On day one, with a tinge of green left in the pitch, Ireland bowled out England in the morning session. After a day under the sun, the pitch had flattened out and England scored 122 for one before lunch to exactly wipe out the first-innings deficit.

But, to their credit, Ireland refused to lie down and stormed back to regain the initiative in the afternoon session. After Thompson had ended Roy's hopes of a debut century, Murtagh tempted Leach to fish outside his off stump and three balls after Adair had dropped a catch at second slip, he made no mistake and Ireland had two fresh faces in the middle.

A superb pick-up and throw by Kevin O'Brien at mid-wicket gave Joe Denly no chance of recovering his ground after being sent back by Root and, after one of the overs of the match when Adair was all over Jonny Bairstow, the England wicket-keeper was trapped in front for his first pair in a Test.

With the temperature at its highest, Ireland had taken four wickets for 87 in the afternoon session and they resumed as strongly as ever after tea. A Rankin lifter found the edge of Moeen Ali's bat and then, in successive overs, Adair sent back Root, to a spectacular diving catch by Wilson, and Chris Woakes steered one straight to second slip.

At 248-7, England were just 126 in front but Curran and Stuart Broad then added what may yet be a crucial 45 runs from 31 balls, including three sixes, as they decided the best way out was to attack.

It paid off until Thompson had Curran caught on the mid-wicket boundary by James McCollum but the dangerous Broad is still there to resume this morning. Any more runs could be vital, but last night Ireland could still dream.

Scoreboard

England 1st Innings 85 (T Murtagh 5-13, M Adair 3-32)

Ireland 1st Innings 207 (A Balbirnie 55, P Stirling 36; S Curran 3-38, O Stone 3-29)

ENGLAND 2nd INNINGS

J Leach c Adair b Murtagh 92

R Burns c Wilson b Rankin 6

J Roy b Thompson 72

J Denly run out 10

J Root c Wilson b Adair 31

J Bairstow lbw b Adair 0

Moeen Ali c Wilson b Rankin 9

C Woakes c Balbirnie b Adair 13

S Curran c McCollum b Thompson37

O Stone not out 0

Extras (1b 7lb 4nb) 12

Total (9 wkts, 77.4 overs) 303

Fall: 1-26 2-171 3-182 4-194 5-194 6-219 7-239 8-248 9-293

Bowling: T Murtagh 18-3-52-1, M Adair 20-7-66-3, B Rankin 17-1-86-2, S Thompson 12.4-0-44-2, A McBrine 10-1-47-0

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