|England v Ireland, one-off Test|
|Venue:Lord’sDates:24-27 JulyTime:11:00 BST|
|Coverage:Ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, Radio 4 LW, online, tablets, mobiles and BBC Sport app. Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website.|
The last time I walked under the media centre at Lord’s, 30,000 people were singing and celebrating England winning the World Cup.
It was an incredible atmosphere and I’m not sure that my voice has fully recovered.
On Tuesday, when I did the same walk on the way to interview Joe Root, the Test captain, it was considerably quieter.
It is strange being back and must be stranger for the players who were involved, returning to an empty dressing room.
But that must be put to one side as this second part of the summer begins. First it is the match against Ireland, beginning on Wednesday, then the Ashes start next week.
- England must ‘ride wave’ of World Cup win – Root
- TMS podcast: England v Ireland – the big preview
- Pick your England team for the Ashes
Hopefully, on the field, England can roll their World Cup momentum into Test cricket and, off the field, interest in the game remains high.
You might think that, after such a massive high, it will be hard for England to get themselves up for the Ireland Test.
However, this match will mean a lot to every one of them. Looking down the team, perhaps only captain Root can be certain he will be in the spot he is listed to fill in the long term.
There is a new-look top three, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes have been rested, meaning Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali have been shunted up the order, spinner Jack Leach plays his first Test in England and there is Ashes competition between the fast bowlers.
From that, the two main topics of conversation are the top order and the pacemen. In the case of the batsmen, it has been who will England pick? With the fast bowlers, next week it will be who do they leave out?
Yes, James Anderson, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood have been ruled out for varying lengths of time, but they will all return at some point. In Anderson’s case, very probably next week for the first match against Australia at Edgbaston.
Therefore, all of the fast bowlers here – Chris Woakes, Sam Curran, debutant Olly Stone and even the vastly experienced Stuart Broad – will be looking to prove how good they are.
Of greater importance, though, are the performances of Rory Burns, Jason Roy and Joe Denly. England will be desperate for those three, the top three in the order, to get runs to make sure it isn’t a talking point going into the Ashes.
From those, the most interest surrounds Roy, another Test debutant. A few months ago, I was one of those saying England shouldn’t pick him, but he has had a superb World Cup and no-one else has really pressed a claim. They are right to give him a chance.
If Roy can produce anything like his one-day form in Test cricket, it will be hugely exciting. It’s not a new thing for an opener to come out and look to give the ball a whack – think of the success enjoyed by India’s Virender Sehwag – but it is a question of how often it comes off.
Comparisons will be drawn with Alex Hales, who also got a Test chance on the back of his one-day performances, but in Hales’ case, you could see that he was going to have problems.
A tall man, his foot never went near the pitch of the ball and it was always likely that his drives would end up in the hands of second slip. So it proved.
Roy isn’t technically perfect – Australia’s Mitchell Starc will have noted a potential weakness with the ball coming back towards him – but he also showed during the World Cup that he knows when to bat sensibly.
In the semi-final against Australia, he had a look at the bowling, showed caution early on, then cut loose to absolutely leather the Aussies.
If he doesn’t come off right away, England must stick with him for a little while because there will be a match when it does click.
Opening with Roy will be his Surrey team-mate Burns, who had a tough introduction to Test cricket over the winter, playing on six very difficult pitches. During that time, he showed great character, so I hope he gets some runs.
Similarly, Denly has shown a great temperament and is very experienced. He was left out of the World Cup squad at the very last minute, so it would be nice to see him succeed here.
Still, more important than individual success is the health of the team. If the top three can produce at Lord’s, it removes an Ashes question.
England do not want to turn up to Edgbaston with fans saying ‘bring Alastair Cook back’ or ‘get Root to number three’.
It’s not only the England players with a point to prove – Ireland arrive wanting to show themselves worthy of being at this level.
That is not an unkind thing to say, because they weren’t awarded Test status for nothing. They have been a long journey since qualifying for the World Cup for the first time in 2007 and claiming famous one-day victories over England and West Indies on the way. This appearance, at the home of cricket, is just reward.
But this will be hard for William Porterfield’s men. They are not used to the exposure, the pressure and the relentlessness of ball after ball being bowled in the same place.
They might hope that England will be off the boil, but I don’t think they will be for the reasons detailed above. Therefore, the Irish have to show that they aren’t here to be rolled over.
However, Ireland are competitive and tenacious – they actually have a bit of New Zealand about them – and in Tim Murtagh they have a tricky seam bowler who has lots of experience of playing at Lord’s for Middlesex.
They have the opportunity to show everyone the best of Irish cricket and I hope they do just that.