It was a landmark day for Irish cricket this Sunday, though it would have been a landmark day regardless of the result. Just over one-hundred years ago, cricket would have been the most played game throughout the island, fifty years ago an amateur Irish team beat a soon-to-be dominant West Indies team on a dodgy Sion Mills pitch, and ten years ago a ragtag group of farmers, teachers and fabric salesmen walked out in Kingston Jamaica to stun the world, beating an incredible Pakistan team; win or lose, Ireland playing their first One Day International in the Home of Cricket deserves its significant place in the timeline of Irish cricket’s history. Indeed, the English side reflected another element of Ireland’s history, as one of the finest cricketing minds produced on this island was now wearing three lions across his shirt (as well as the captain’s armband).
Hopes were not high going into the game, the team being easily dismantled by a brilliant English eleven in Bristol two days previously, but that arguably was a point in Ireland’s favour. Since the last world cup the form of the men’s national team hasn’t been great, with many commentators correctly pointing to the pressure put on them in their campaign for Test cricket; such pressure wasn’t on them in 2007, and it certainly wasn’t there in 2011 in Bangalore when Ireland successfully chased England’s mammoth total of 327, but you could see the spectre of the ICC hanging over the ‘boys in green’ in Bristol. While the spin of Adil Rashid was what tore through the batsmen that day in Bristol, it was the captaincy of Eoin Morgan that really did them in, excellently rotating the field and bowlers to get the Irish all out for 126 after only 33 overs.
In an overcast Lord’s, William Porterfield correctly guessed the coin toss and elected to bowl first. While the pitch looked rather flat, the overhead conditions suited bowling first, as well as giving the fans more cricket to watch if the events of the previous Friday were to repeat. One of the biggest problems with this Irish team of late has been the lack of venom in its bowling attack: Trent Johnston and John Mooney, the previous purveyors of bite in the bowling, had retired at roughly the same time, and Boyd-Rankin’s brief defection to England meant that any real pace or experience over the last few years had been sorely missed. Peter Chase (23, Durham) and Tim Murtagh (35, Middlesex) opened the bowling for Ireland, and provided a consistent line against the English opening pair of Alex Hales and Jason Roy, holding them to a relatively low partnership for the first few overs. Hales was bowled by Murtagh in the tenth over, with assistance from the infamous slope in Lord’s. Roy wasn’t long after his opening partner, being caught well off the bowling of Barry McCarthy (24, Durham). McCarthy, playing his first game for Ireland in two months, was a revelation, providing much needed pace and bite at times. Two of England’s captains were now at the crease, and set out to get some runs on the board. The left-right handed combination may have disrupted the rhythm of the bowlers, but one can’t deny the sheer quality of Morgan & Root, who quickly put on an impressive performance. After 34 overs Root & Morgan had put on a century partnership, having withstood the mid-innings spin quite well. Starting to bat a bit more freely, Root was caught by Balbirnie off the bowling of Chase in the thirty-fifth over. This brought Yorkshire’s Jonny Bairstow to the pitch. Morgan, hoping to add his name to the honours board in Lords and score a century against his former nation, was caught out by Ed Joyce in the covers in the first ball of Barry McCarthy’s seventh over, and the thirty eighth over overall. England were now 213 for 4. Wicketkeeper Sam Billings was next out, though he was only able to add seven runs in his ten balls faced across the next three overs before he was caught by Kevin O’Brien in the Member’s End from the bowling of George Dockrell. With only eight overs left in the innings, Bairstow let loose, forming a late game partnership with Adil Rashid to add 108 runs to the total, setting Ireland a massive total of 329 to win.
Veteran Ed Joyce, himself a former England international, and Middlesex player Paul Stirling opened the batting for Ireland. They withstood the quick bowling of Mark Wood and David Willey well for the first while, with Stirling being the substantial run getter. It wasn’t until the thirteenth over when the first wicket fell, as Stirling was caught behind for 48 off 43 to the bowling of Nottinghamshire’s Jake Ball – a faint edge, umpire Tim Robinson had initially given it not-out, but a review by England proved there was an edge, and the decision was overturned. Joyce, having had trouble with his right hip earlier in the day, was only able to put on 16 runs, being bowled by England’s new Test captain Joe Root in the fifteenth over. Ireland captain William Porterfield and Andy Balbirnie were now at the crease, and Porterfield looked to improve upon his incredibly poor performance the previous Friday. Balbirnie didn’t last long, being adjudged LBW to a 90mph ball from Liam Plunkett in the eighteenth over. Ireland’s inability to form meaningful partnerships with the bat again troubled them here – though Porterfield was able to get runs consistently no other player was able to stick with him out there as the next three batsmen, Niall O’Brien, Gary Wilson and Kevin O’Brien, were unable to break twenty runs. After 35 overs Ireland were 178 for 6, needing some luck and a bit of magic to have any hope of beating England. Unlike in Bangalore in 2011, it was not to be, as Porterfield was bowled by Mark Wood in the fortieth over. Dockrell had a decent late game cameo, but in the end Ireland were bowled all out after 46.1 overs.
A much more heartening game for Irish fans, even though the result was not the one they would have preferred. The younger pace bowlers, McCarthy and Chase, bowled excellently and could go on to form a decent attack in the near future. The batting, again, let Ireland down, and they will have to work on keeping their wickets better ahead of the beginning of the Tri-Nation Series next week. England will be looking forward to their next series with South Africa at the end of the month, with many positives for them coming out of these games.
E. Morgan (Captain), S. Billings (WK), J. Roy, A. Hales, J. Root, J. Bairstow, A. Rashid, D.Willey, L. Plunkett, J. Ball, M. Wood.
W. Porterfield (Captain), N. O’Brien (WK), E. Joyce, P. Stirling, A. Balbirnie, G. Wilson, K. O’Brien, G. Dockrell, B. McCarthy, T. Murtagh, P. Chase.
Umpires: P. Reiffel (Australia), T. Robinson (England). Third Umpire: A. Dar (Pakistan).
Man of the Match: J. Root (England, 73 off 73 and 3-52 off 10 overs).
Attendance: 21,946 (Lord’s Cricket Ground, MCC).