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August 25, 2011
In terms of the outcome, this was more Belfast 2009 then Bangalore 2011 as England edged a match that was interrupted frequently by the weather and, like at Stormont two year ago, Eoin Morgan was central to the victory. On that occasion it was one piece of fielding on the boundary edge which saved England, but here he contributed the most fluent innings of the game and made calm captaincy decisions in the closing stages.
It meant he finished his brief stint as captain with a 100% record, although he has no qualms about handing back to Alastair Cook. He said he'd got a "buzz" from the day, especially when it came to watching the younger players, and believed that an inexperienced side will have gained immensely from the tight situations they found themselves in. Although the three debutants - James Taylor, Ben Stokes and Scott Borthwick all had quiet matches - Morgan knows how valuable it will have been to be around the set up.
"It was something completely different and something they aren't used to in county cricket," he said. "A bit of an indifferent pitch is challenging, where dot ball follows dot ball and you have to calm yourself down and I thought they showed a lot of maturity in the field. It took me 10-12 one-day internationals to get going and for them to be around guys like Jonathan Trott really helps, guys who have been there, done that and be able to learn from them. Experiences like today will really help."
Morgan, himself, also showed some tactical acumen when he had to juggle his bowlers in the final part of the game. Before the rain he'd given Chris Woakes and Steven Finn standard new-ball spells, but after the reduction in overs it meant they'd completed their allocation so the likes of Samit Patel and Ravi Bopara played important roles.
Although Morgan took the Man-of-the-Match award for his 59 off 65 balls the match-winning performance for England came from Jade Dernbach, who produced another nerveless display of yorkers, slower balls and bouncers with 3 for 30. He is already being suggested as the best England have had in that 'death' role since Darren Gough or Andrew Flintoff and his ball to remove Kevin O'Brien, who was turning the game Ireland's way with a flurry of boundaries reminiscent of Bangalore, was unplayable.
"The wicket really helped his slower ball," Morgan said. "Going from 85mph to a slower ball is a hell of a skill and is something that's worked consistently for him since he's come in. He stepped up in the last series against Sri Lanka, particularly the last game at Old Trafford where he was exceptional. We haven't had someone like that in a long time and he fits the bill."
The day, though, didn't quite live up to the hopes and expectations of the locals. Of course the weather and result played a part in that but there remains a lingering thought that England could have done a little more to feel part of the occasion. Sending young players was completely understandable but the team, minus Morgan who is staying on to spend time with friends and family for a few days before the squad meets up in Manchester on Sunday, were flying straight back to Heathrow that evening. Two of them, Taylor and Craig Kieswetter, are involved in Twenty20 Finals Day but it would have been nice to see them linger with the hosts.
England's swift departure also meant there wasn't the usual extra hour available to compensate for the rain which required overs to be lost earlier than would have otherwise been required. It may not have altered the result, but Ireland captain William Porterfield admitted the final requirement of 90 in 10 overs was "steep" on that surface.
However, while Kevin O'Brien was batting for Ireland they were favourites to make it back-to-back victories over England and Porterfield had a wry smile when it was suggested to him that his run out, off the second ball of the final 10 overs, may have been tactical. "I could have got a better dive in but it probably did us a favour," he said. "When Kevin was in they whipped the spinners off pretty quickly. Another couple of overs of them and it could have been over pretty quickly but seam wasn't easy to get away on that wicket when you bowled straight."
It's a sign of the development in Ireland's cricket that defeats like these really hurt. As the supporters and home players looked back on the day with a few pints of a local tipple in the Clontarf pavilion they, no doubt, reflected on one that got away. England, meanwhile, were already on their way to the airport grateful that they had at least come out on the right side of this result.
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