London: A sense of sanity returned to a sweltering Lord’s as England wiped off their 122-run first innings deficit to Ireland by lunch on the second day of the four-day Test on Thursday.
After the 20-wicket mayhem of the previous day when Ireland bowled out England for 85 before being dismissed themselves for 207, the hosts reached the interval on 122-1 with unbeaten half-centuries for Jack Leach and Jason Roy.
Leach, sent in as a nightwatchman the previous evening to negotiate one over of England’s second innings, played fluently to reach 60 while test debutant Jason Roy raced to 52 from 48 balls as the hosts gained the upper hand.
After being stunned on the opening day by a nation playing only their third Test match, England will now be strong favourites to win their one warm-up match before taking on Australia in the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston next week.
With the mercury rising into the mid-30s Celcius, Ireland’s attack proved far less potent than it had done 24 hours earlier when Londoner Tim Murtagh, who plays for Middlesex, did most of the damage by taking five for 13 on his home Lord’s track.
Ireland’s Boyd Rankin, who once played for England, did make an early breakthrough when under-pressure opener Rory Burns prodded forward and got a thick edge to depart for a disappointing six but it was a morning when batting looked easy.
With England’s opening partnership still a cause for concern ahead of the Ashes, spinner Leach gave a masterclass in test batting, playing watchfully at first and then tucking into the bad balls when they came along.
Having seen off Murtagh’s spell, Leach began to make hay in the sunshine, striking three boundaries off one Rankin over to take England’s score past 50 - a mark they reached on Wednesday for the loss of seven wickets.
Roy, superb throughout England’s triumphant World Cup campaign and now entrusted with leading the charge against Australia, made amends for his cheap dismissal on Wednesday.
He made his intentions clear from the start, getting off the mark by slapping a boundary back past bowler Mark Adair and then a couple of balls later he leathered a sweet cover drive that flashed to the boundary.
Playing with the freedom he usually does when facing the white ball, Roy raced to his maiden Test half-century in 47 balls, crashing seven fours and a six on the way.