England begin their big summer of Test cricket with an inaugural four-day Lord’s match against Ireland on Wednesday.
It’s an historic occasion for the Irish as they play their first-ever Test at the home of cricket and just their third in total after being granted Test status in 2017.
With England still basking in the glory of becoming one-day world champions, there will be an added feel-good factor for a game that has its own significance, even if it is being used by the home side as a warm-up for the big Ashes showdown against Australia to come.
Ireland will be keen to show they can handle the big occasion and prove they do belong at Test level, but it’s difficult to see anything other than a comfortable win for the hosts.
Joe Root‘s side are 1/10 to win, with Ireland available at 18/1 to cause a huge upset, while the draw is 27/4. With little value in backing England to come out on top, it’s in the individual player markets where we will focus on.
In the search for who could be the home side’s top first innings batsman, Jason Roy will hope to shine. He has been drafted in for his first Test appearance after starring in the World Cup and the one-day star, who deserves his chance to try and stake a claim for an Ashes place, is set to open alongside Rory Burns.
Both are available at 7/2 to be top first innings scorer but a confident and fired-up Roy is the pick. Some doubt if he will be able to translate his white ball form onto the red ball stage and he may feel the pressure but, against a limited Ireland bowling attack, he should thrive.
In the absence of the rested Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes, several other players will be keen to take their chances with Moeen Ali, in particular, out to impress at number six. The all-rounder has hit just two half-centuries in 15 innings since last summer and will want to underline his Ashes credentials with both bat and ball.
Ali is tempting at 9/2 to be top England first innings bowler, especially as he may get more of an opportunity with paceman James Anderson a confirmed absentee as he concentrates on being ready to return from a calf injury for the Ashes opener at Edgbaston next week.
Ireland lost to Afghanistan and Pakistan in their first two Tests but running out at Lord’s marks real progress in their long journey to be regulars at this level. Unsurprisingly, their side is not packed full of household names but Boyd Rankin is one of the more well-known.
Rankin actually played one Test for England in the Ashes series in 2014 before switching allegiance back to Ireland and he will be relied upon to take wickets, along with experienced seamer Tim Murtagh, who knows Lord’s well from his time at Middlesex.
Finally, the man of the match market may be of interest with plenty of England players on offer at attractive prices. Captain Root is the favourite at 7/1 but it might pay off to look further down the list. Ali could again tempt some at 14/1 but it’s surely be time for opener Burns to make a big total to set England up nicely for a timely pre-Ashes victory.
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