The image of a team bus creeping through Kensington in first gear behind a ‘go slow’ demonstration of cautionary banners forewarning the end of the world does not, after all, quite fit with the carefree promise that Ben Stokes’s side will carry their high-octane approach into these seismic eight weeks of cricket.
Normal service, though, quickly resumed, the day bookended by Stuart Broad taking a flurry of early wickets on his way to a twentieth Test five-for, then a remarkable evening session as Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett ate into Ireland’s 172-all-out with a century opening stand that took little more than 15 overs to compile.
Duckett, finally making his home international debut in his 27th appearance across formats, was particularly superb, punishing any semblance of width to the tune of eight boundaries in his unbeaten 60. By close, with Ollie Pope also making a blistering start, England trailed by just 20 with nine wickets in hand.
Crawley was a little streakier, at one point chopping past his stumps to the fence three times in two overs, but played some glorious shots, too. As the batter under most pressure for his place in the lineup, his 56 from just 45 balls will provide relief, though there will be regret at an opportunity missed after becoming debutant Fionn Hand’s first Test wicket.
As exquisitely brutal as England’s stroke play was, the state of affairs at stumps is as much a product of external forces. Red-ball cricket is not Ireland’s priority, the upcoming 50-over World Cup qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe far more pivotal in the context of future funding.
First-class opportunities have, in any case, been extremely hard to come by for most of this group, Ireland not included in the ICC’s World Test Championship cycle and Irish players now classified as overseas in the County Championship. As a result, this is a hugely inexperienced side, the nation playing only its seventh ever Test having gone almost four years without one between April’s trip to the subcontinent and their last visit to Lord’s back in 2019.
Asked to bat under grey skies this morning and then swiftly reduced to 19 for three, memories of that chaotic game, when England were themselves rolled for 85 before lunch on the first day, quickly sprung forth, but counter-attacks of sorts from Paul Stirling (30) and Curtis Campher (33) kept things respectable.
From an English perspective, debutant Josh Tongue impressed without reward but Broad, the outright leader of the attack with James Anderson and Ollie Robinson not risked two weeks out from the Ashes, was the standout, taking five-for-51.
The first three of those came inside the first seven overs of the day. PJ Moor, who is a member here (a sentence you might expect to write about an Open Championship golfer, but not an Irish opening bat) was trapped in front for 10, before captain Andy Balbirnie and Harry Tector were out for ducks in the space of three deliveries.
Stirling was given lbw off the very next ball but, on a ground he knows well from a near-decade at Middlesex, had the decision overturned on review and mustered a typically aggressive riposte in an entertaining ding-dong with Jack Leach, who was brought on inside the first hour as Stokes declined to bowl himself.
The spinner eventually won the battle, collecting the first of three wickets with a top edge to Jonny Bairstow, the ‘keeper back in the side for the first time since breaking his leg last August and, encouragingly, looking sharper behind the stumps as the innings wore on.
Matthew Potts helped polish off the tail to give his figures of two-for-36 a deserved massage after a fine but fruitless new-ball spell in tandem with Broad, leaving Worcestershire seamer Tongue’s wait for a maiden wicket to drift into tomorrow.
The 25-year-old, under obvious experimental instruction from his skipper, bowled a hostile spell of bouncers in which Campher was pinged on the head, showing why Stokes had yesterday cited the new boy’s extra half-yard of pace as his edge over the likes of Chris Woakes. Consensus had the quick up in high-eighties, though Lord’s’ speed gun did not enjoy one of its more reliable days, at one stage clocking Tongue well above 90mph having earlier accused Broad of chucking down a 49mph slug.
One day into the summer, there is little doubt as to where England have set the dial.