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Ashes 2019: There's nothing like bowling at Lord's - England must rise to the challenge

Ireland's Tim Murtagh reacts after England's first innings
Bowling at Lord's has two distinct challenges for England Credit: Reuters

There is nothing quite like bowling at Lord's. For a bowler, it's a challenge that comes in two parts: the mental strain of playing at the Home of Cricket, in the same way playing at Wembley or Twickenham must bring an extra pressure in football and rugby. And then the ground itself, which is unlike pretty much any other because of the slope that runs across the pitch. 

This is the thing that can mess with your mind, just because it's so unusual to have a slope that runs across the ground - going from up high on the Grandstand side of the ground, to low down towards the Mound Stand.

I like to bowl from the Nursery End and the first time you run in from there, you feel like you're falling away down the hill as you approach the crease. Then, from the Pavilion End, everything is sloping back in towards the stumps and you're worried about bowling nothing but leg-stump half-volleys. 

My choice of end was forced on me, really - when I joined Middlesex from Surrey in 2006, all the senior bowlers who were already there seemed to prefer the Pavilion End and, as the new guy, I didn't have much choice in the matter! Luckily it seems to suit the way I bowl so I would have chosen the Nursery End anyway. I swung the ball more in those days and bowling from that end means you tend to be taking it away from the right-handed batsmen, towards the slips.

I got my head around it quite quickly - no more than a couple of four-day games. It's like anything: before you do it, it's built into something massive and you worry about how it is going to affect you. Then, once you've done it a couple of times, your mind and body adjusts and you almost forget it's there.

Bowling at Lord's is even harder given the slope of the field Credit: GETTY IMAGES

The good thing about Lord's is that, even when the ball does not swing, you always have the slope to play around with. The odd ball might nip down the slope, or one might hold its line from nowhere, and that play tricks with the batsman's mind. You are always in the game to some extent.

The old adage at Lord's is that, to work out how much the ball is likely to do, you look up rather than down. There are occasions when that isn't the case - I have played matches there on roasting hot, sunny days where the ball has been going round corners, and on overcast ones when it has been gun barrel straight - but generally speaking that is still true. 

If it's cloudy, and particularly if it is humid, then you can expect some assistance - and more importantly, so will the batsmen. Cricket is such a psychological game, and once a batsman is confronted by cloudy, muggy conditions, he will just expect the ball to swing around and play slightly differently. That automatically gives the bowler an advantage. 

That was certainly true in Ireland's Test against England earlier this month. That really was a perfect storm for a bowler like me: I was on my home ground, the conditions were helpful and I knew how to exploit them and we were playing England at a good time, as they were on a bit of a come-down after the World Cup. That Test was the moment I wanted to peak this season, and everything just clicked on that day. I ended up with five wickets. 

We could not quite force a win but we gave England a good scare. They came into our dressing room for a drink afterwards and it was nice to swap stories, especially as the Ireland guys had already taped my name to the honours board.

Murtagh used the Test against England as the chance to peak this season Credit: Getty Images

Those boards are one of the reasons players are so inspired whenever they walk out to play at Lord's - the chance to put your name up there alongside some of the real greats is special. It motivated me against England a few weeks ago, and it will be the same for the 22 players who walk out at Lord's on Wednesday.   

Tim Murtagh has played for Middlesex since 2006, and took six wickets in Ireland's inaugural Test against England earlier this month.