Irish still have work to do to seal dream Test win: Adair
Ireland's dream of a first Test victory at only their third attempt is still alive as England take a lead of 181 into the third day of the Lord's Test, with just one second-innings wicket standing.
For the second day in a row, Mark Adair picked up three wickets as England closed on 303 for nine but the 23-year-old Test debutant said that much work still lay ahead.
"We need to take another wicket. Olly Stone can bat, he has come in at No.11 but he's not a No.11, and Stuart Broad is a pretty good batter," Adair said after another enthralling day's Test cricket.
"It would be good to pull it off," he added in one of the under-statements of the season.
On a testing day for the bowlers and fielders in temperatures which touched 37 degrees in London, Ireland took only one wicket in the first 40 overs of the day while conceding 171 runs, but they stormed back to take the next six wickets for 57 and put themselves back in control.
"As a unit we stuck together. We were pretty cohesive and that's something we must bring forward. I was told to bank on what I did because I'm going to have to do it again," said Adair.
England's star batsman was the player who should have been batting No.11, but Jack Leach was sent in on Wednesday night as opener to prevent debutant Jason Roy from having to face a solitary over from Tim Murtagh at the start of their second innings. For three and a half hours he frustrated Ireland before Murtagh finally dismissed him for a career-best 92.
"He played and missed quite a lot but the guy is a nightwatchman and for every play and miss he played a nice cover drive, so take nothing away from him he batted very well," added Adair.
As for Leach himself, he admitted he now knows what the nervous nineties are.
"I can't believe it," was Leach's verdict after the day's play. "I just tried to do a job for the team but it went a bit further than I expected. It was great to bat with J(ason) Roy, he gave me a lot of confidence and allowed me to play the way I played. It was a nice partnership. I was just focusing on one ball at a time, not thinking too far ahead. That was the plan and it worked. It's just a pity it didn't go further. But I now know about the nervous 90s," said the Somerset bowler, whose previous highest score was 66.
"It was hot as well, and I was cramping in the forearm at lunchtime. When I came out again, I was telling myself not to think about it (a maiden century) but that only made me think about it!"
The 50 runs which England added in the final 10 overs of the day, however, could be crucial and Leach believes England go into the third day with a great chance to complete a comeback victory after their first innings horror show.
"The pressure is on Ireland, this is the first time they have been favourites to win the game," Leach added. "We don't need to hide away from that. We do believe we have a great chance.
"We spoke in the dressing room about the game in Edgbaston against India last year when they were chasing 180 and they came up 30 runs short. The boys believe this is a tougher wicket so we have big belief going into tomorrow. We know we have to bowl really well but I think we have a great chance."
Leach also gave credit to the Ireland bowlers and singled out Adair for special mention.
"I thought Adair bowled really well and kept coming in for them. As a team they showed real fight and made things tricky for us. It's important we show that same fight tomorrow, you can have all the skills and talent in the world but its that fight that can take you a long way and we want to show that tomorrow."
And Leach accepts that he could have a vital role in bowling out Ireland today, with the pitch likely to take an increasing amount of turn. We are going to have to bowl well as a unit. I didn't bowl well yesterday, I felt nervous, playing a Test in front of a home crowd for the first time - a Lord's full house - so I hold my hands up,I didn't get that right.
"But this innings has given me confidence and I will take that into my bowling. There's a bit of rough, the pitch is wearing so I feel I will have a part to play tomorrow."
His dream scenario would be to follow his top score with a wicket to win the match. It would also be Ireland's nightmare.