England managed to put their CricInfo Women's World Cup campaign back on track today with a solid all-round performance to defeat Ireland by eight wickets at Lincoln University's BIL Oval.
The Irish luck still continued with the toss but it then deserted the team for the rest of the day. The top order failed against the pace of Lucy Pearson and Clare Taylor and the game was vitually all over by the end of the 14th over when Ireland found themselves 23 for five.
It is not in the Irish nature to lie down and we saw it again today as Catherine O'Neill and later Isobel Joyce, Saibh Young and Nikki Squire fought to the end but it was a rear-guard action after the early collapse. While 103 was a good effort in the circumstances, it was never going to be enough to defend against an England team ruthless in their search for respectability.
Pearson picked up two wickets, Clare Connor two for one off her 4.2 overs and Taylor turned in the CricInfo Player of the Match performance with four for 25 off her 10 overs. The England fielding showed signs of frustration at times as a partnership between O'Neill and Squire developed in the middle of the innings. The pair took the score from 23 for five in the 14th over to 61 for six in the 30th when O'Neill, on 25, fell to an endemic Irish disease at this tournament, the run-out.
Joyce's 26 batting at number nine offered a lesson to the top order on how to accumulate but England had the fielding answers, accurate work by Arran Thompson in covers effecting two run outs and Kathryn Leng picking up a sharp catch at short cover.
It was Thompson again in the thick of things when England started their chase for the modest target. She was dropped in the first over at first slip off Barbara McDonald and celebrated by carrying her bat through the innings, showing a preference for scoring through the covers on her way to an unbeaten 44. Barbara Daniels was the other main contributor to England's total as they cruised to victory in the 30th over.
With tight bowling and committed fielding, Ireland had the satisfaction of restricting batsmen who were looking for runs to just 24 off the last 10 overs but the total was never big enough to defend on another quality Lincoln pitch.
The England coach, Paul Farbrace, took satisfaction from a performance in which his side had fielded and bowled "reasonably well" and "had got the job done" in the batting department.
What he was not happy with was the mix-up early in the match that saw his team facing a potential problem over the failure to record a late change on the official team list. Laura Harper, named in the original line-up, aggravated an injury during warm-ups and the designated 12th man, Nicky Shaw, took her place on the field. It was not until the sixth over that the switch was noted.
After much discussion, officials ruled that Shaw could remain as a substitute fielder and that, if required, Harper could bat but only at seven or lower.
Farbrace said it was a mistake that no one involved would ever make again. He took responsibility as the coach: "I should have checked." But from the sheepish looks around there would have been nightmares for other members of the camp if Shaw had bowled or batted before the switch was noted and the match had been forfeited.
Noting that the technical staff had dealt with the matter very sensibly, Farbrace summed up the incident to the point: "Extremely embarrassing."
Looking ahead, he said this was the first of four matches the team had to win. "People might think that is pie-in-the-sky stuff but that is the only way we can approach it." Australia is next!
John Wills, the Irish coach, somewhat glumly reflected on two or three players performing in each match but never the same two or three. "We just can't gel."
He was pleased with the fielding - "but, oh that catch" in the first over. He also had praise for the youngest member of the team, Isobel Joyce: "She looked completely at home." And he acknowledged the work of Anne Linehan, the stand-by keeper, who recover from one blemish to bring off a superb stumping.
Of the mix up at the beginning, he said that Ireland had been told of the substitution by the officials and had said that the rules should be abided by. "It was all dealt with very amicably."
Result: Ireland 103; England 105 for two; a win to England by eight wickets.