Paul Stirling and Curtis Campher hundreds show that actually things weren’t ‘only going to get tougher’ for Ireland in Test cricket

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“It is tough and it’s only going to get tougher,” said Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie after Sri Lanka won the first Test by an innings and 280 runs. That seemed a wildly inaccurate assessment at the time – and indeed so it has proven.

Ireland conceded 591-6 in the first Test and after initially responding with 143 all out, quickly found themselves 40-5 when following on. We’re not sure it’s a real confidence-builder when your captain says that Test cricket is only going to get tougher than that.

Imagine how that feels. The opposition was easily on track for 100 runs per wicket and you’ve averaged 12.2 runs per wicket. “Well at least it can’t get much harder than this,” you think.

“It can get harder,” says your captain in all his infinite wisdom. “Not only that, but it will get harder. In fact it will only get harder. This absolute shellacking you’re enduring right now? This is the easiest Test cricket will ever be.”

Fortunately, Balbirnie was completely wrong. Indeed Ireland may even have learned a thing or two from their first Test experience because the second has not been tougher still. Balbirnie himself made 95 when Ireland batted, before Paul Stirling and Curtis Campher hit hundreds. Campher’s was his first ton in any form of professional cricket, so he’s clearly encountered tougher cricket before now.

That Sri Lanka have so far responded strongly is, if not irrelevant, then of limited importance. Ireland’s Test opportunities are so few that it’s tempting to wonder whether it’s even worth bothering when they’re getting beaten in one-off matches against Bangladesh or being utterly outplayed in every facet of the game, as they were in the first Test.

But it is worth bothering – it absolutely is – because they’re only ever a few moments away from something vivid and memorable. This is partly because scarcity of fixtures and lack of history combine to make almost every achievement feel positively monumental. For many teams, 492 in the first innings of a Test match is a small paragraph at the start of yet another chapter. But for Ireland it’s a story in itself. As mentioned above, these were only the third and fourth Test hundreds Ireland batters have ever made and 492 is their highest score in the format by a country mile. (As everyone knows, one country mile equates to 153 runs.)

Whether Ireland win, lose or draw, their matches currently hold huge potential for vivid and memorable events. Things aren’t always going to get tougher, but they probably are going to get more prosaic.

> Having actually fought for it, Ireland seem to comprehend that Test cricket is worth fighting for

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  1. There’s a bit of me that just wants to jump for joy.

    There’s a bit of me that wants to say something critical about a pitch that might well be one of those 500+ plays 500+ pitches. But given the lack of challenge in the first test, who could blame the Lankans from wanting to at least present a challenge to their bowlers for the second match.

    I’ll go with jumping for joy. Definitely.

    1. This is our point. A flat pitch runfest is a novel thing for Ireland and that can make for an interesting match in our opinion.

  2. Balbirnie’s bowlers might not be sharing the view that his statement has been disproven just yet.

      1. Has any team in Test history ever passed 500 for the loss of one wicket?

        England at Brisbane 2010?

      2. Still seems pretty tough at the moment. SL are going to win by an innings here aren’t they? Cricket is harsh.

      3. Not often you’re declaring on 537 and then seeing the opposition go past it one down.

        Pretty sure Sachin didn’t expect a 400-run first innings deficit when he called them in.

  3. Pretty sure England currently hold 4 of the 5 highest first-innings totals to have then gone on to lose by an innings, all in the last decade to boot. Ireland’s 492 would surpass the 477 vs India in the 5th test of the 2016 drubbing. (Bonus fact: Karun Nair the only player whose solitary test hundred was also a triple).

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