England captain Joe Root watched with a mixture of joy and relief as Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad demolished Ireland for just 38 to seal a three-day victory at Lord’s – but he admitted the pitch was not up to Test standard.
The visitors began the fourth innings of the inaugural meeting between the nations eyeing an upset for the ages – it was Ireland’s third game at this level and England’s 1,011th – yet they were mercilessly dispatched by the new-ball pairing.
Woakes claimed a career-best haul of six for 17 and Broad took four for 19 at the other end as England wrapped up a 143-run win in a whirlwind passage of play comprising less than 16 overs.
Ireland’s was the seventh lowest score of all time and their total of 94 balls at the crease was the joint second fastest completed innings on record.
Root was doubtless pleased to emerge without a sizeable blemish against his side heading into next week’s Ashes opener at Edgbaston but, having seen his own team bundled out for 85 on the first morning, he was less than impressed by the surface.
“I don’t like saying this but the wicket was substandard for a Test match,” he told Test Match Special.
He picked up the theme in his post-match press conference, adding: “I thought it was not even close to a fair contest between bat and ball throughout the whole game. First innings, last innings… when you are getting scores like that it tells a story in itself.
“There’s always different challenges to playing in England than anywhere else in the world: it does do a little bit more than most places, but it was extreme in this game. From a batting point of view it’s hard to take too much out of it on a surface like that.”
Just as England had only 10 days between their dramatic World Cup final success and this Irish assignment, they once again have almost no time to process a remarkable sequence of events.
Root was heading straight from his post-match duties into an Ashes selection meeting, with a squad announcement planned for Saturday morning. The old rivals will renew their battle for the urn in Birmingham on Thursday and the events of recent days are sure to be on the minds of batsmen in both
“Australia will be thinking, ‘it’s doing a bit in England’,” said Root with a smile.
“It’s hard for anyone to read too much into these very extreme conditions but I’m sure the bowlers will
like the look of the surfaces here and it’s bubbling up nicely for a very entertaining first game.”
As for the physical and mental demands on himself and his fellow World Cup winners Jonny Bairstow, Jason Roy, Woakes and Moeen Ali – Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler having been excused this match – Root was stoic.
With five high-stakes Tests against Australia in little more than six weeks, he will have to be.
“It’s been 10 weeks of hard cricket, of high emotion and of ups and downs. It does take a lot out of
you,” he said.
It’s been 10 weeks of hard cricket, of high emotion and of ups and downs. It does take a lot out of you.Joe Root
“You have to suck it up and get on with it. It’s not been perfect but we’ve dealt with it pretty well. It’s hard to look too much into performances on there but mentally coping with it I think we’ve done alright.
“It’s a hard slog for guys to play all five of these games and be at the top of their game.”
Head coach Trevor Bayliss was less than pleased by how England approached the first two days against Ireland but suggested motivation might have been a factor.
“For matches like this we have to take a good hard look at ourselves,” he said.
“We have no problems getting up for games against Australia and India. Do we take the foot off for matches like this? Are we able to get in the mood to compete and be ruthless?
“The first two days we were embarrassed by how we played but today we were top class. Our backs were against the walls and in those conditions Woakes and Broad are top class.”