Batting coach Graham Thorpe suggested England’s World Cup winners struggled to readjust to the challenge of Test cricket after being dismissed for 85 by a rampant Ireland at Lord’s.
Five of the squad that triumphed in an unforgettably dramatic final at the same ground 10 days swapped their one-day kit for England whites but found the winning formula was nowhere to be found as the visitors rolled their hosts over before lunch on the first day of the inaugural Specsavers Test between the nations.
The contributions of the World Cup winners were wince-inducing. Jason Roy was fortunate to score five on debut, captain Joe Root managed just two and there were ducks for Jonny Bairstow, Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali.
With all of England’s key coaching staff, Thorpe included, also devoting the majority of their summer to the white-ball project compared to two full days of preparation for this match, the notion of fragmented minds is hardly an outlandish one.
After conceding a 122-run deficit – England bowling the visitors out for 207 on a 20-wicket day – Thorpe said: “You’d probably say there aren’t too many sports where you win a World Cup and are playing again a week later.
“It’s a challenging mental examination I suppose, coming back off the World Cup. It was a tough tournament, absolutely no doubt about it, and I think there is no harm admitting where, potentially, some of our players are.
“We have to accept that some players are maybe in a different headspace to others. That’s natural, totally understandable. We would have hoped it all went swimmingly well but it hasn’t.
“There’s no real excuses for us being bowled out for 85 against Ireland but congratulations to them, they put us under pressure and didn’t let us off. It’s disappointing that we didn’t respond.”
Thorpe reiterated that the World Cup contingent had been consulted about playing in the match – with Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler rested after discussions with the backroom team – but pointed out that the imminent start of the Ashes series muddied the waters.
He continued: “I think those players were all asked if they wanted to play. But it’s a balancing act with the Ashes coming up, even though it’s a tough day we’ve got an opportunity to react and respond.
“I don’t think you can bury your head in the sand. The schedule is what it is and we have to do our best to give the players the opportunities to put them in the best place to start an Ashes series, which is an important part of an already exciting summer.”
Tim Murtagh was the hero of the hour for Ireland, taking a superb haul of five for 13 to set the tone of the day.
The Lambeth-born 37-year-old has spent a career at the coalface but knows Lord’s better than anyone having spent the past 12 years teasing wicket-taking deliveries out of its famous slope.
His figures are the best in Ireland’s short, three-match Test CV and could well stay that way for some time.
“As a kid growing up I dreamt of being on that honours board, probably not in the away dressing room – but that makes it even more special,” he said.
“It’s as special as it gets for a cricketer. A fantastic feeling walking off, holding the ball up having taken five wickets in a session. It’s as good a feeling as I’ve had in my career.
“I’m a bit long in the tooth but I should know how to bowl here!”
Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom, who fought tirelessly behind the scenes to secure the dream of Test status, toasted the moment.
He said: “What an amazing day – firstly for those 11 players that went out on the field, and secondly for the many, many fans of Irish cricket around the world, particularly the thousands that came to Lord’s and gave the atmosphere that distinctly bubbly, Irish flavour.
“We also recognise that this is just day one of a Test match against England with a lot of time still to play. However, what a day’s play like this does show is that Ireland belongs here on the world stage.”