Ollie Pope says entertainment matters as England close in on win against Ireland
Double centurion Ollie Pope was delighted with his “special” innings and played down concerns over England’s under-cooked middle-order after they closed in on victory against Ireland.
Pope smashed 22 boundaries and three sixes in a sparkling knock of 205 from 208 balls and shared a 252-run partnership for the second wicket with opener Ben Duckett, who hit a superb 182 on day two at Lord’s.
Pope’s double century was the quickest ever registered in a Test match in England but his dismissal after tea brought about an early declaration from Ben Stokes with England on 524 for four, holding a lead of 352.
Ireland look destined to suffer an innings defeat in this one-off Test despite closing on 97 for three, meaning Harry Brook, Stokes and Jonny Bairstow would go into the Ashes opener on June 16 with minimal time at the crease.
But Pope countered: “What we’re about as a side is entertaining so we wanted to let the crowd watch us have a whack for a few overs and then watch us with the new ball.
“That’s what a full crowd at Lord’s probably wants to see as well so that was partially why we did that (declaration). I guess Jonny didn’t bat but he’s played a lot of county cricket.
“The way cricket is now, there is not always that feeling of you need a load of innings before a series.
“Jonny is in a really good place, his batting is in a really good place and you want to just be as fresh and confident as you can. Hopefully all the boys are feeling like that.”
Pope was more than happy to get some time in the middle himself before the battle with Australia begins at Edgbaston and especially at Lords, where he had only passed 50 once in seven previous Test innings.
Reflecting on going on the honours board, he admitted: “It’s very special.
“Lord’s is not somewhere I’ve done that well over the years, I think I got 70-odd against South Africa but other than that I’ve hardly scored a run here.
“So, it’s nice to get that one off my back, especially leading into a big summer.
“There’s no denying that Australia’s attack is stronger than Ireland’s but scoring runs at Lord’s and scoring runs in Test matches is a habit, a good habit to get into early.”
After Pope, who had struggled during the first hour, hit his fourth Test hundred, England debutant Josh Tongue stole the show in the evening session.
The Worcestershire seamer impressed in the enforcer role on day one and clocked 91mph, but had Peter Moor lbw and bounced out Paul Stirling on his way to three for 27 from a fine eight-over spell.
“For him to dive into that role he did this evening…the way he did that was perfect,” Pope admitted.
“He has been awesome this week, he looks the part and has been great around the changing room too. I don’t think you would know it’s his debut.”
Meanwhile, Duckett’s extraordinary new lease of life in Test cricket shows no signs of slowing.
In his first Test innings on home soil, the Nottinghamshire batter breezed to 150 off the same number of balls to snatch the record for quickest Test 150 at Lord’s off Australian great Don Bradman before his fun ended on 182, which came at a strike rate of 102.84.
Duckett, recalled this winter six years after his last appearance, told BBC Today at the Test: “It’s been a crazy six months and to start the summer like that and make a century at Lord’s was something I dreamt of as a kid.
“Even 12 months ago I thought I’d never play Test cricket for England again.
“With other captains I probably wouldn’t have, but Stokesy and Baz (Brendon McCullum) wanted me to open the batting and play the way I’ve played throughout my career and a lot of thanks to them.”
Ireland face an uphill battle to take only their seventh Test into a fourth day and batting coach Gary Wilson was unsure if opener James McCollum would bat again after he twisted his ankle and retired hurt on Friday evening.
Wilson said: “He has gone to hospital for scans and we don’t have a further update.
“I went to see him in the ambulance and he was very keen to go on, felt like he was in good touch, so he’s very disappointed, but he might be back tomorrow. We don’t know yet.”