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Ollie Pope says entertainment is important as England close to victory over Ireland

Ollie Pope says entertainment is important as England close to victory over Ireland

Double centurion Ollie Pope was happy with his 'special' innings and played down concerns about England's undercooked middle order after they came close to beating Ireland.

Pope smashed 22 boundaries and three sixes in a scintillating knock of 205 off 208 balls and shared a 252-run partnership for the second wicket with opener Ben Duckett, who scored a brilliant 182 on the second day at Lord's.

Pope's double century was the fastest ever in a Test match in England, but his dismissal after tea led to an early declaration from Ben Stokes with England at 524 for four, leading by 352.

Ireland look set to suffer an innings defeat in this one-off Test despite closing on 97 for three, meaning Harry Brook, Stokes and Jonny Bairstow will go into the Ashes opener on June 16 with as little time as possible at the crease.

But Bob replied: “It's entertaining what we are as a team, so we wanted to let the fans watch us hit the ball for a few overs and then watch us with the new ball.

“That's what a whole Lourdes crowd wants to see too, so that's partly why we did it (the ad). I think Johnny didn't bat but he played a lot of county cricket.

“As cricket is now, there's not always that feeling that you need a lot of innings before a series.

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“Jonny is in a really good place, his hitting is in a really good place and you want to be as fresh and confident as possible. I hope all the boys feel that way.”

Pope was only too happy to spend time in the middle before the battle with Australia began at Edgbaston and especially at Lord's, where he had only passed 50 runs in seven previous Test innings.

Speaking about being named to the Roll of Honor, he admitted: “It is very special.

“Lord's is not where I've done well over the years, I think I got 70 against South Africa but other than that I haven't scored a goal here.

“So, it's nice to get that out of the way, especially with a big summer coming up.

“There's no denying Australia's attack is stronger than Ireland's, but scoring runs at Lord's and scoring runs in Test matches is a habit, and it's a good habit to get into early.”

After Pope, who had struggled through the first hour, made his fourth Test hundred, English debutant Josh Tonge stole the show in the evening session.

The Worcestershire seamer impressed in the enforcer role on day one and scored 91mph, but he had Peter Moore lbw and Paul Stirling bounced his way to three for 27 from a more than impressive eight-run spell.

“For him to dive into this role that he did this evening, the way he did it was perfect,” Bob admitted.

“He's been fantastic this week, he's been fantastic in the locker room as well. I don't think you'd know this is his debut.”

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Meanwhile, Duckett's extraordinary new lease on life in Test cricket shows no signs of slowing down.

In his first Test innings on home soil, the Nottinghamshire batsman cruised to 150 off as many balls to snatch the record for the fastest Test 150 at Lord's off Australian great Don Bradman before his romp ended with 182, which came at a strike rate of 102.84.

Duckett, looking back on that winter six years after his last appearance, told the BBC Today Test: “It's been a crazy six months, and starting the summer like that and spending a century at Lord's was something I dreamed of as a kid.

“Even 12 months ago, I thought I would never play Test cricket for England again.

“With other captains I probably wouldn't have done it, but Stuckey and Buzz (Brendon McCullum) wanted me to bat and play the way I've played my whole career, and I thank them very much.”

Ireland face an uphill battle to play just their seventh Test on day four and batting coach Gary Wilson was unsure whether opener James McCullum would bat again after he sprained his ankle and retired injured on Friday evening.

“He went to hospital for tests and we have no further update,” Wilson said.

“I went to see him in the ambulance and he was very keen to carry on, and he felt well connected, so he's very disappointed, but he might be back tomorrow. We don't know yet.”