Irish dreams of first Test triumph are ripped apart by England
The sun was blazing down at 3pm yesterday afternoon but it was an hour too late for Ireland, who had failed to survive the morning session on the third day of the Lord's Test.
Set 182 to win, the team playing only their third Test match were blown away for 38 by Stuart Broad, playing his 127th, and Chris Woakes, who for the third time took five wickets in an innings at the Home of Cricket.
With the floodlights on and heavy cloud cover, it was an unfair contest, and the Ireland batsmen couldn't cope as the ball nipped around in ideal bowling conditions.
James McCollum, to his credit, reached double figures - and only William Porterfield faced more deliveries - but if the vast experience of the captain and Paul Stirling, along with Andrew Balbirnie, could not last eight overs, then it was always a question of when not if England would complete victory.
The answer was 15.4 overs, the joint second shortest innings in Test match history, and their sad total was the seventh lowest and four short of the worst at Lord's.
It may be an unwanted record but the Ireland players can be proud of the part they played, albeit in a Test which lasted only seven sessions.
To be even in a position where they were contemplating victory - and the television commentators were talking about it as well - showed they belonged on this stage.
Their total of 207 on a pitch which England captain Joe Root described as 'poor' was their highest first-innings total in their three Tests, and Mark Adair, with his bowling, showed he belonged on the big stage despite his tender years. It was only three months ago that he played his first senior interprovincial in La Manga.
McCollum is another 23-year-old who seems destined to be around for the long-term. He batted for 81 minutes in the first innings and looked the best Ireland batsman yesterday. They were two individual positives which head coach Graham Ford can take from the match, even though the final instalment undid the excellent work of the first two days.
Actually, the first two days and one ball, because yesterday could not have started any better for Ireland with Stuart Thompson, continuing his unfinished over from the previous evening, taking out Olly Stone's leg stump with the first ball.
Ten minutes later, Porterfield and McCollum were in the middle and facing a fired-up England bowling attack with a point to prove.
They survived seven balls before the players were driven off by rain and it would be another 65 minutes before they returned. They had 90 minutes to last until the delayed lunch.
The procession began with the last ball of the fourth over, Woakes finding the edge of Porterfield's bat and Jonny Bairstow taking a fine diving catch low to his left. It set the standard for what was to come because not only was the bowling virtually unplayable but it was superbly backed up by Root, who took four catches at first slip.
Balbirnie was his first victim, to a ball he probably should have left outside his off stump, and three balls and one run later, Stirling was bowled through the gate by Woakes.
The carnage was at its height with the total on 24 when, in the space of seven balls without adding to the total, Ireland lost three wickets.
For the first time in his innings, McCollum didn't find the middle of his bat and Root snapped up his second catch, while Gary Wilson was given not out by the umpire when his second ball struck him on the pads, but England asked for the television review and 'three reds' sent the Ireland vice-captain back to the pavilion.
Kevin O'Brien was hit on the pads by the first ball of Broad's sixth over and this time there was no doubt with both umpire and batsman in agreement that he was out.
Adair was next in the firing line, literally, as he was rapped in the helmet by Broad. It was typical of the Holywood debutant that he plundered the next ball over the mid-wicket fence for a defiant six, but too much confidence can also prove fatal and next ball he missed an attempted off drive to a fuller delivery and was bowled.
By that stage, Ireland had passed the lowest total in England - it's still 30 - but the tail had no mind to prolong the agony with Thompson and Andy McBrine both edging drives to Root, and Murtagh, backing away as usual, was bowled by Woakes to give him his sixth wicket and Test-best figures, the match wrapped up three minutes before lunch.
Frustratingly for Ireland, as much as they want many more big games like this, they must wait until February for their next Test, against Sri Lanka in Galle, and although they are due to face Afghanistan in India and travel to Zimbabwe in April, the third leg is in doubt due to the current suspension of Zimbabwe Cricket by ICC.
Porterfield looked disbelievingly before replying in the negative to his questioner at the post-match press conference if any of the over-30s were contemplating retirement after this 'high' of playing at Lord's.
Why should they? They will want to be part of Ireland's first Test win, which could come sooner than expected.
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
(overnight 303-9, J Leach 92, J Roy 72, S Curran 37, J Root 31)
S Broad not out 21
O Stone b Thompson 0
Extras (1b 7lb 4nb) 12
Total (77.5 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 12.5-0-44-3, A McBrine 10-1-47-0
IRELAND 2ND INNINGS
W Porterfield c Bairstow b Woakes 2
J McCollum c Root b Woakes 11
A Balbirnie c Root b Broad 5
P Stirling b Woakes 0
K O'Brien lbw b Broad 4
G Wilson lbw b Woakes 0
S Thompson c Root b Woakes 4
M Adair b Broad 8
A McBrine c Root b Broad 0
T Murtagh b Woakes 2
B Rankin not out 0
Extras (1b 1lb) 2
Total (15.4 overs) 38
Fall: 1-11 2-18 3-19 4-24 5-24 6-24 7-32 8-36 9-36
Bowling: S Broad 8-3-19-4, C Woakes 7.4-2-17-6
England won by 143 runs.