It had to be six. In England’s new Test era, his double-century just one run away it was only fitting that Ollie Pope passed the milestone with a skip and a heave to dispatch Andy McBrine all the way down the ground. This was Bazball, only it wasn’t – because it didn’t need to be.
So as Pope and Ben Duckett etched their names among records and onto the Lord’s honours board, the only takeaways from England’s mismatch with Ireland were ruminations over what will happen against Australia in exactly a fortnight’s time – and a bit of gold leaf.
In fairness, there were also a maiden Test wicket – plus two more – for debutant seamerJosh Tongue, forced to wait until Ireland’s second innings after 13 impressive but fruitless overs in the first, as well as a trip to the medical room for opener James McCollum who twisted his right ankle horribly swivelling on an abandoned pull shot in Tongue’s second over of the day to deepen Ireland’s considerable woes.
Tongue replaced Stuart Broad – as he did in Ireland’s first innings where Broad claimed a five-wicket haul – in the seventh over and struck with his first and sixth deliveries, trapping PJ Moor lbw with one that kept low and drew an outside edge as Andy Balbirnie played away from his body only to find Jonny Bairstow’s gloves. An England review secured his third when Ultra-Edge revealed the ball had brushed Paul Stirling’s glove as he attempted a pull and Bairstow collected behind the stumps again so that at the close Ireland still trailed by 255 runs.
Ben Stokes declared with a lead of 352 when Pope fell, immediately after bringing up his 200 off 207 balls, again shimmying out of his crease as McBrine tossed the ball up outside off stump and Lorcan Tucker whipped off the bails. Having reached his half-century – and 11,000 Test runs – just before tea,Joe Root fell just three balls into the evening session, bowled by McBrine as he came down the pitch to one that turned between bat and pad and into the stumps.
It was Duckett who set the tone though, sharing a 252-run stand for the second wicket with Pope after the pair resumed on 60 and 29 respectively and with England 20 runs in arrears overnight. Duckett scored 101 in the morning session as he and Pope added 173 runs from 29 overs. But this wasn’t the muscular, chest-thumping, roaring aggression we have become accustomed to in the year since Stokes assumed the captaincy and Brendon McCullum became head coach. Only occasionally did Duckett and Pope look like they were trying to make things happen. Mostly they cashed in on some loose Ireland bowling as the gulf between the sides was laid bare.
Pope saw Duckett’s 182 and raised it. He survived an Ireland review for lbw on 76 when debutante Fionn Hand struck him just above the knee roll with one that came back sharply as ball-tracking showed it was going just over the top of middle stump. Having lunched on 97 not out, Pope comfortably navigated the six balls he faced across two overs after the interval to bring up his ton by advancing and whipping McBrine past mid-on for a single.
Duckett helped himself to 14 off three deliveries in McBrine’s next over, including a slog-sweep for six, and it took the replacement of a misshapen ball for Ireland to remove him, trying to cut Graham Hume’s delivery which pitched on a length and angled in to find a thick outside edge and ricochet onto off stump.
The replacement ball kept Pope and Joe Root on their toes for a time as the Ireland bowlers found more movement. But the England duo settled into a 50-run stand off 49 balls with Root, who faced 15 balls for his first five runs, contributing 16 off 23. From there they found their stride with Pope and Root each peeling a six off McBrine, Pope down the ground and Root wide over mid-on.
The first of back-to-back fours off Curtis Campher took Pope past the 150-mark in 166 balls, equaling the previous record for the fastest 150 in Tests at Lord’s held by Sir Donald Bradman and which Duckett had smashed by reaching the milestone at a-run-a-ball in the morning session.
Pope also equalled Duckett’s earlier feat of adding 100 runs in a session shortly before tea, but there was still time for Root to bring up his half-century and take England past the 500-mark with a pulled four off Campher. Next ball, a leg-side single left Root unbeaten on 52 at tea.
By the time Root fell, he had added 146 runs with Pope and, as England maintained a staggering run-rate of 6.34, it was done with an air that was more clinical than brutal. There is no doubt whatsoever that the hosts will be preparing to unleash the beast once more when the Ashes begin.
Ireland 172 (James McCollum 36, Paul Stirling 30, Curtis Campher 33; Stuart Broad 5-51, Jack Leach 3-35) and 97 for 3 (Harry Tector 33*, Lorcan Tucker 21*; Josh Tongue 3-27) trail England 524 for 4 declared (Ollie Pope 205, Ben Duckett 182, Zak Crawley 56, Joe Root 56; Andy McBrine 2-99) by 255 runs
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