Stokes Prepares Soft Launch Before Ashes Attack

The first day of an English Test summer is always a reason to be cheerful. Given this is an Ashes year, it doesn’t matter that the opponents are ‘only’ Ireland. The Green and Whites should have conjured a victory in 2019 when they dismissed Joe Root’s side for 85 on the opening morning. Well, that was 18 more than England managed against the Aussies at Headingley a few months later. We know what happened next.

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England’s Bowling Crisis Starts Ashes Worries

Brendon McCullum’s side is not exactly fit and firing in the bowling department as the Irish come to the home of cricket. Worcestershire’s Josh Tongue is handed a debut, described by the coach as a “fit strong lad” and a “rough diamond”. The 25-year-old dismissed Steve Smith a couple of weeks ago in a match at New Road and he is not short on confidence or a bit of pace, bounce and movement. That’s good news because England continue to look for a rocketman that can rattle the Aussies rather than rely on the trundling variations of the 80 to 85mph crew. Jofra Archer has been ruled out of the series, Ollie Robinson is still recovering from his ankle and Mark Wood also misses out this week. The latter said he might not play any Ashes matches this summer just a few months ago. As for Ben Stokes, McCullum would only say that he could “bowl at some stage throughout the summer”. Yikes.

Bairstow Blitzkrieg Back for Bazball

One welcome addition to the squad is the return of Jonny Bairstow after his freak injury on the golf course last summer. It’s another slap in the face for Ben Foakes who scored a second Test century against South Africa in August, played well in Karachi before Christmas and almost won the series in New Zealand. Foakes is the superior gloveman but Bairstow has priority for his scintillating Test form in 2022. Ollie Pope is now approaching the equivalent of the Ian Bell ‘boy to man’ series. The Surrey player had a horrible time in the 4-0 defeat down under, batting like a cat on a hot tin roof. He has gained more belief under the new regime and was even given the extra responsibility of the gloves in Pakistan. A big innings at Lord’s would set him up nicely before the Australian assault targets that off stump.

Ireland Arrive At Lord’s in Hope More Than Expectation

Ireland arrive at Lord’s without some of the key personnel that carried them so close four years ago. Irish-national cricketers are now deemed overseas players, denying them crucial first-class experience while Josh Little, their big new shiny global star, is enjoying a well-earned rest after an epic IPL season that ended in defeat. The team’s high performance director Richard Holdsworth has downplayed the importance of the Test as they prepare for forthcoming World Cup qualifiers. The core batting unit of captain Andy Balbirnie, Paul Stirling, Lorcan Tucker and Curtis Campher at least filled their boots against Sri Lanka on a belter in Galle five weeks ago.

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England Lite Will be Too Heavyweight in Aperitif to the Ashes

This four-day Test match (that’s plenty of time in Bazball configurations) is not the main event. Everyone wants to fast forward the next two weeks to Birmingham. In the meantime, Australia have a very competitive warm-up game against India for the World Test Championship to play themselves into form. The only question over the next few days is how fast England’s start is and how brutal the end might be. McCullum will be ensuring that run counter is on full throttle while the bowling garage is in repair mode. In a fortnight at Edgbaston, the real games will commence. It’s going to be fast and furious.

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