Nightwatchman Leach underpins England fightback but result remains in balance

An improbable career-best knock of 92 from nightwatchman Jack Leach underpinned England’s fightback against Ireland at Lord’s but the visitors remained in the hunt for one of Test cricket’s biggest upsets.

England ended day two of the inaugural Specsavers Test between the neighbouring nations on 303 for nine – a lead of 181 – after lightning and rain brought an early end to proceedings.

With the game so finely poised all three results remained on the table but England may already have been staring down the barrel of an remarkable defeat had it not been for a steadfast knock from Leach.

The left-hander vaulted from number 11 to an emergency role at the head of the innings late on day one and went on to share a stand of 145 with debutant Jason Roy, who scored an attacking 72.

By the time the pair had steered the score to 171 for one Ireland seemed out on their feet on a sweltering afternoon, but they rallied by claiming the next seven wickets for 77.

The pendulum had swung again thanks to a seam attack led by newcomer Mark Adair’s three-for only for Sam Curran to counter with a swift 37.

Ireland’s hopes of wrapping things up by stumps ended when the weather changed, leaving everything to play for on day three.

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