Before he had a career change to make ‘exceedingly good cakes’ (or so it’s claimed) Mr Kipling waxed lyrical in his ‘If’ about treating triumph and disaster just the same as part of your development but as I’ve seen this week it also applies to teams in many fields.
Ireland has had its share of triumph so far this week. Shane Lowry beat all before him to take the Open Championship, whilst his playing partner of earlier rounds vying for the lead before he stepped onto the first tee at Portrush found disaster and moved from first to almost last in the blinking of an eye (in golfing terms) and his potential triumphant pay cheque of £500,000 disintegrated as did his golf and he walked away with only £ 22,000 for his toils.
The triumph of staging the Open in Ireland must have spread to the Test cricket side (yes…Ireland are one of the new boys of test cricket) as they approached their first ever test against England and at Lord’s. So, the opportunity of witnessing history for the first two days of the test could not be ignored.
England are expected (as one of the leading lights of test cricket) to roll Ireland over by a significant margin without breaking into a sweat so triumph and disaster for each side is regarded as a ‘given’. Failure to do so and also to dominate in every area of the game would be regarded by England as a disaster especially as the Ashes follow hot on the heels of this game – and England need to be mentally on top of their game for those tests because Australia will be!
So, to witness an abject batting performance on the first morning was expected but it was not expected was that it would be England who would be done like a kipper! All out for 85 on the stroke of lunch (a four day game instead of the standard five but not that many fewer overs meant that timings are all over the place).
The weather was warm and sunny – verging on hot later – no real cloud cover; a pitch which looked from afar not to be too green but what followed at 11.00 am was an exhibition of seam/swing bowling by Tim Murtagh (Middlesex player of many years standing so he knows every blade of grass here at Lord’s) to stand tall in the pantheons of bowling. England’s batsmen played as if they had never seen a bat before, let alone a ball and collapsed (more than embarrassingly) to be all out in just over two hours and Tim taking 5-13 in nine overs – so he gets himself on the honours board at Lord’s which is a career highlight in itself but with one of the best set of figures in the history of the game seen at Lord’s.
The excuse being rolled out (by those that know) is that the England team had been focussing on winning the one day World Cup that there were mentally tired – that may be so but not all of this team are World Cup winners, so why were they so bad? Some were in one-day mode so why didn’t the ECB organise some four day cricket for them – perhaps, even dare I say, a county championship game? Or even, why play this test now…if England don’t win by a large margin in next to no time it would be seen as a disaster and at lunch on Day 1 that looked likely. Regular readers will be well versed in my frustration at being unable to understand the ECB!
But anyway…we are where we are. By tea Ireland move to 120-odd for two and the England bowling ineffective and once Plan A didn’t work, Plan B was just to repeat Plan A (now where have we seen this before?) but by the close (as clouds rolled in) Ireland had been dismissed for 207 and a lead of over 100. England send out Leach as night watch man for one over (seen that before!) but for the first time since the early 1950s three innings were seen on the first day of a test.
A casual observer would have looked at the headlines and seen one side out for 85 and the other for over 200 and thought England were all over Ireland like a rash but the opposite was true. Triumph and disaster in one day! Excellent bowling – especially by Ireland – but batting dire in the extreme by England and capable by Ireland.
Day 2 dawned with lists of records and events at Lord’s and the prospect of the hottest day ever recorded in the UK as well as the risk of recently-retired Prime Ministers and other sacked/resigned Cabinet ministers trying to occupy their time at the Test whilst the circus they had left behind transformed itself into the true three-ring variety just down the road – again triumph and disaster in equal measure.
England needed to establish a lead and also get some of the side into some kind of batting form but the one-day approach (seemingly highly contagious as it spread to the non-World Cup guys) reappeared; the shock and delicious irony was that Leach as night watchman made 92 and Roy on debut 72 provided the bulk of the runs. Perhaps Leach is the solution to the opening problem?
But England collapsed around tea time as the clouds rolled in and the Irish seamers found their forte; by the close (taken early since there was a thunderstorm brewing in the Croydon area) England strained to reach 300 and a lead of 180 but with one wicket to go.
And I musn’t forget one of my stable of hobby horses before I close – 12 overs were lost on Day 1 due to slow over rates and 22 on Day 2 – but no one seemed to mind of being cheated out of paid entertainment! Others may not but I do!
So as the match reaches Day 3, there’s the opportunity of triumph and disaster for both sides – but who knows how it will go.
What is clear from two days is that England’s batting was poor, their attitude and approach suffered a shock on that first morning and first day and what are the mental implications for the Ashes?
Ireland did themselves proud as they stepped onto the large arena and embarrassed England with their professionalism and better skill on the first day. And I can say that I was there!
And…there’s the opportunity for more triumph and disaster across the Channel as the Tour de France reaches its climax; disaster for last year’s winner as he slips down the order and probably out of contention, and possible triumph for France in having their first Tour winner for over 30 years.
But then just as the Maillot Jaune changed hands in the Alps but with an opportunity to change back as they descended from the highest peak of the whole Tour, a freak hailstorm caused the stage to be abandoned so from triumph to disaster to the hope of triumph to disaster was unprecedented!
And as Mr Kipling muttered through his crumb filled face – treat triumph and disaster just the same and you’ll be a better person/team etc – let’s hope England don’t get kipled by the Aussies but we shall see