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England v Ireland: Test Match Preview

England may be without both James Anderson and Ollie Robinson for their first Test match of the summer, but they will still be expected to avoid any shocks against Ireland.

The real business of 2023 may be the Ashes series against Australia, but there are platforms to be laid and pot holes to be avoided against the Irish in the Test that starts at Lord’s on Thursday.

It’s an incredible 20 years since Anderson made his England debut, so it’s hardly surprising that with a dodgy groin the England coaches have decided to wrap their talismanic fast bowler in cotton wool until the Aussies come into view.

That would not have been as much of an issue if Robinson was fit, but he limped out of Sussex’s County Championship match against Glamorgan last week.

Added to that, there are fitness worries, too, about captain Ben Stokes and his ability to bowl following an injury hit spell in the IPL with Chennai Super Kings.

So, can Ireland take advantage of England’s fragile bowling resources and produce the kind of battling display that put the frighteners on the three Lions back in 2019, when they bowled out England for just 85?

That was the only other full Test encounter between the countries when Ireland enjoyed a dramatic first day before going on to lose by 143 days by day three.

Ireland are hardly a force in world cricket, but then that’s probably because there are not long queues of opponents thinking there is commercial value in giving them a four-day game.

They have only played three more Tests since that game against England four years ago and are still searching for their first win.

Ireland bowler Tim Murtagh – who took 5-13 against England in 2019 – has since retired from international cricket and the Irish are also getting by these days without other stalwarts such as Gary Wilson, Kevin O’Brien and William Porterfield.

Their best known player of the current era is batsman and captain Andy Balbirnie, who led Ireland to victory over England at the T20 World Cup in Australia last year and who made 95 against Sri Lanka last month.

He could come up against bowler Mark Wood, who is in line for a Test recall after being rested for the tour of New Zealand.

While others may be worrying about Anderson and the rest ahead of the Ashes, fretting about the loss of Joffra Archer and the injured hamstring of Olly Stone, England coach Brendon McCullum does not sound like a man who fears any kind of upset, or even a wobble, against the Irish.

“When I first took over this job, people said there wasn’t much depth in English cricket and I disagree with that completely,” said McCullum.

“I think there is an immense amount of depth. There’s no point being concerned.

“You just deal with what you’ve got and play the cards you are handed. I am confident we will have a good squad to pick from right throughout the summer, and we’ll see how we go.”

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