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Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Ireland arrive on the grandest stage ... just as the scenery is being changed

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Could Ireland surprise a much-changed England? (1:58)

The Switch Hit team look ahead to Ireland's visit to Lord's, where they'll be hoping to upset an England side with one eye on The Ashes. (1:58)

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Well, how do you follow that? The Greatest Game at the Greatest Venue. The Greatest Day for English cricket in, at the very least, a generation. And if Liam Plunkett's telling comments in the aftermath are anything to go by, the Greatest Comedown imaginable for a band of England cricketers who, last Sunday afternoon, reached the highest high of them all - an unforgettable World Cup triumph at Lord's.

Well, in keeping with the sport's ever-grinding treadmill, the only fit and proper follow-up is to march onwards, ever onwards, to a very different slice of cricketing history. Three strips north of the patch of grass laid out for that epic encounter with New Zealand, England and Ireland will do battle for the very first time in Test history, in a contest that offers a very abrupt change of pace from everything that we've so far witnessed this summer.

First things first, let's pay tribute to the visitors, for - with respect to their first overseas Test against Afghanistan in Dehradun in March - this is unquestionably the biggest occasion for Irish cricket since their inaugural Test against Pakistan last May. And in so many ways it is bigger still than that emotional home unveiling in Malahide.

Just try to imagine the huge pride that Ireland's players will feel as they walk through the Long Room for that very first time tomorrow, to compete in a Test match at Lord's, no less. There is no more fitting ceremony to mark the completion of their journey from Associate obscurity to Full Member acceptance, and coming so soon after a World Cup from which they were forced to look on enviously from the sidelines (and watch a former team-mate raise the trophy on England's behalf), the occasion is sure to be all the sweeter.

But let's be frank, the timing is not exactly ideal. In fact, it utterly sucks. Schedules are no-one's friend, and the ECB are entitled to say, if not now, then when could they possibly have issued that maiden invitation? But there are only two contests on English cricket's minds this summer - the World Cup that has already been, and the Ashes that are looming large in barely a week's time. Everything that occurs in the next four days (and that in itself is a telling detail) will be viewed through a light blue filter, a green-and-gold filter, or both.

Of course, that in itself will throw up some intriguing subplots. England have confirmed two debutants in their ranks for Wednesday morning - the familiar face of Jason Roy at the top of the order, and the lesser-exposed Olly Stone in the pace attack - and while both men will be justifiably proud when they receive their maiden caps before the toss, they will also know that this is just the pre-amble, an audition for a far more prestigious role in August and September.

And Roy aside, what of the other World Cup survivors - the captain Joe Root, the keeper Jonny Bairstow, and the seamer Chris Woakes, whose chronic knee problems have been managed so efficiently that he is now back to being a front-line Test option after not featuring in the side for almost a year? How do they manage the emotions of returning to the scene of that triumph? Should they hold anything in reserve, pacing themselves for stiffer tests to come, or should they throw themselves wholeheartedly into the fray, and honour the occasion as an equal, even when pragmatism says that it is not?

Of course they'll give it their all. Root is the Test captain, and rightly proud of the honour; Bairstow doesn't get out of bed with anything less than 100 percent commitment. Woakes was a centurion in his last Test at Lord's and has missed enough matches in his six-year career to know never to take anything for granted. But it doesn't make it right to expect them to be able to dredge up another performance so soon after playing their hearts out on the biggest stage of all. As shown in the new film, The Edge, which charts the rise and fall of England's 2009-14 team, the dangers of burn-out are all too real and all too easily ignored.

But, the show must and will go on, and it's fair to say that Ireland won't care too greatly if their opponents' minds are caught in no-man's land. Even eight years on, there are enough survivors in Ireland's ranks from that mighty victory in the 2011 World Cup to know how sweet it can be to fell a giant when they are least expecting it. They've spent enough of their careers punching upwards to give it one last heave for glory.

That said, there is a certain poignancy about Ireland's international fortunes at present. They are not so much a team in transition as a team basking in the last sunbeams of a golden generation. Kevin O'Brien, Tim Murtagh and Boyd Rankin are closer to their 40th birthdays than their 30th; Ed Joyce and Niall O'Brien have already retired since that inaugural Test. Will Porterfield has been captain for a remarkable 11 years and counting.

That said, England are missing a raft of key performers - not least the ever-green James Anderson - and if their new-look top-order suffers a familiar wobble on another grass-tinged deck, the circumstances are ripe for an almighty World Cup comedown. But for that to happen, Ireland may require a new generation of heroes to make their presence known. That faithful old guard can't be expected to do the job every time.

Form guide

England WLLWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Ireland LL---

In the spotlight

Jason Roy is the anointed one. The manner in which he tore into Australia's bowlers in that crushing World Cup semi-final was all the evidence required. Like David Warner before him, he is all set to complete the transition from white-ball to red-ball opening, and given the purity of the technique that lurks behind his extraordinary power, he is surely as well placed to make a success of the promotion as any player who has gone before him. That said, he didn't have much fun against the swinging ball in the World Cup final (though he was hardly alone in that). If he can get set, however…

If Ireland are to compete on an equal footing, then local know-how is sure to be a factor. Enter Tim Murtagh, 38 next week and still making the ball talk on the Lord's slope for Middlesex week in, week out. He's picked up 291 wickets at 23.98 in his Lord's career to date, including two of his four ten-wicket hauls. The degree to which he can set the agenda could define his team's prospects.

Team news

Despite some optimistic noises about James Anderson's calf injury, England's senior seamer was never going to be risked with the Ashes just around the corner. Which means that Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes are the likely new-ball pairing, with the young gun Olly Stone lurking at first change to unleash his 90mph offerings, in only his third first-class outing since suffering a stress fracture of the back. Lewis Gregory will have to wait his turn after England opted for a twin-spin attack, with Jack Leach's left-armers set to partner Moeen Ali, who will form part of a familiarly interchangeable raft of allrounders in the middle order, albeit with Jonny Bairstow pushed up to 5. Roy and Rory Burns will form an all-Surrey opening partnership.

England 1 Jason Roy, 2 Rory Burns, 3 Joe Denly, 4 Joe Root (capt), 5 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 6 Moeen Ali, 7 Chris Woakes, 8 Sam Curran, 9 Jack Leach, 10 Stuart Broad, 11 Olly Stone

There's the realistic prospect of as many as three Test debutants in Ireland's ranks, with the young allrounder Mark Adair and the more seasoned seamer Craig Young in the frame, alongside the spinner Simi Singh, who could yet feature if Ireland ape England's strategy and opt for two slow bowlers. Will Porterfield was giving little away on the eve of the game, saying only that all 14 squad members were fit, although it emerged later on Tuesday that James McCollum had suffered a back spasm.

Ireland (possible): 1 Will Porterfield (capt), 2 Paul Stirling, 3 Andy Balbirnie, 4 James McCollum, 5 Kevin O'Brien, 6 Gary Wilson (wk), 7 Mark Adair, 8 Andy McBrine, 9 Craig Young / Simi Singh, 10 Boyd Rankin, 11 Tim Murtagh

Pitch and conditions

Another lush green offering has been served up at Lord's, which may give Root a restless night given how strokeless he was rendered on a similar deck in the World Cup final - that one was two-paced and sticky, and favoured the slower seamers. The weather is set fair for at least the first three days, with a threat of rain at this stage for Saturday.

Stats that matter

  • This will be the first home England Test match since the 2005 Ashes - 89 Tests ago - in which Alastair Cook has not featured, and the first since August 2006 in which he has not opened the batting.

  • This will also be the first Test match to feature numbers on the back of England's shirts - the captain, Joe Root, will be wearing 66.

  • Joe Denly will be making his first appearance in a home Test match, almost a decade after he made his ODI debut in Stormont against an Ireland that still features three of the same names.

Quotes

"It's right up there - if not the pinnacle for everything that's been achieved for the last while for Irish cricket. We have got quite a few World Cups under our belt, little things like that. They have been pretty big occasions, but getting to Test cricket and then having the opportunity to play here at the home of cricket is a pretty special thing."
Will Porterfield on a special occasion for Irish cricket

"They are a side that have always performed well, probably over-performed at times, I hope that doesn't sound that I am underestimating them or not giving them a fair shout - they have upset sides like England in previous World Cups and they ran us close in the one-day format at the start of the year … it is great for the game that sides like Ireland are getting a chance in this format and I think they have earned the right to get this fixture. "
England captain Joe Root on Ireland's Test arrival

Ireland 4th innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st11WTS PorterfieldJA McCollum
2nd7A BalbirnieJA McCollum
3rd1PR StirlingJA McCollum
4th5KJ O'BrienJA McCollum
5th0KJ O'BrienGC Wilson
6th0KJ O'BrienSR Thompson
7th8SR ThompsonMR Adair
8th4SR ThompsonAR McBrine
9th0TJ MurtaghAR McBrine
10th2TJ MurtaghWB Rankin