Thursday, August 27, 2009
Start time 10.45am (9.45 GMT)
Pity poor England - Ashes winners one minute, grist to the mill the next. "Not ideal," is how Paul Collingwood summarised the team's requirement this week, as they prepared to cleanse their minds of all lingering traces of glory, and get back to the drawing-board in preparation for two Twenty20s and seven ODIs against the all-too-recently vanquished Australians. First-up, however, there is a stop-over in Belfast that might, in days gone by, have represented a convivial way to unwind in a green and pleasant land renowned for its appreciation of a party.
But not in this unstinting professional era. The Irish are the pace-setters of cricket's second tier - streets ahead of their traditional rivals, Scotland (who take on the Aussies in Edinburgh on Friday) and itching to put one over the English, for a variety of reasons that extend beyond mere sporting instincts. For starters, there is the likely presence in England's line-up of Eoin Morgan - a member of the Irish side that captured the imagination at the 2007 World Cup, but now a targeted man after switching his allegiance to further his career. And then there's the large Australian influence in the squad, all of whom are gunning for vengeance for their mother country, not least the former captain, Trent Johnston.
(last five matches, most recent first)
Ireland - AWWWW
England - WWAWW
Watch out for…
Eoin Morgan is guaranteed a banter-fuelled reception from his friends and team-mates in the Irish dressing-room, not least the captain Will Porterfield, who has promised to try to unsettle his close mate. However he fares, it's going to be an emotional day for young Morgan, whose skills in the traditional Irish sport of hurling have had a direct influence on his unconventional batting style, not least his ability to play a paddle sweep with the power of a cover drive. In the absence of Kevin Pietersen, he is shaping up as England's most innovative member of the middle-order.
In the temporary absence of Andrew Strauss, Paul Collingwood is back in charge of England's ODI fortunes, and he'll be leading them in the two Twenty20s in Manchester as well. But his tenure could not feel any more ad hoc. His form fell away horribly at the tail-end of the Ashes, with an average of eight from the final three Tests, and while a change of format can sometimes be as good as a rest, his bosses at the ECB aren't sending out too many encouraging messages about his future. "I am Twenty20 captain at the moment," he said, "and until I'm told I'm not Twenty20 captain, that's how I'll perceive myself to be."
A forgotten man is set to return to the top of England's order - Ravi Bopara was absent from the Oval celebrations on Sunday because he was busy on county duty with Essex, where he put his Ashes traumas behind him in some style with a timely double-century. He could well be joined at the top by a debutant, with Kent's Joe Denly being named in the squad for the first time. Stuart Broad's new life as a megastar couldn't really begin in more bucolic surroundings.
England (possible) 1 Ravi Bopara, 2 Joe Denly, 3 Owais Shah, 4 Jonathan Trott, 5 Paul Collingwood, 6 Matt Prior (wk), 7 Luke Wright, 8 Adil Rashid, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 Tim Bresnan, 11 Ryan Sidebottom.
Ireland's preparations took a blow when their senior seamer, Boyd Rankin, was ruled out with a groin strain, but they are not a unit short on confidence these days, and have sufficient resources to overcome his absence. The captain, Will Porterfield, confirmed his form by top-scoring with 47 for Gloucestershire in their Pro40 defeat to Hampshire on Tuesday evening.
Ireland 1 Will Porterfield (capt), 2 Paul Stirling, 3 Niall O'Brien, 4 Kevin O'Brien, 5 Andre Botha, 6 Andrew White, 7 John Mooney, 8 Trent Johnston, 9 Regan West, 10 Alex Cusack, 11 Kyle McCallan.
Pitch and conditions
England and Ireland both topped 260 in their last encounter in 2006, and the Stormont surface has a reputation as a batting track. The outfield, however, is currently boggy, to put it mildly. It could take some serious super-sopper action to get the game underway on time.
Stats and trivia
Ireland have played England only twice in official ODIs, including their maiden senior fixture, at Stormont in June 2006. On that occasion, England were indebted to a century from Marcus Trescothick, who carried them to a comfortable but far from convincing 38-run win.
Their second meeting came in the 2007 World Cup in Guyana, and again it was tighter than perhaps England anticipated, although Paul Collingwood did his best to assuage any fears. He top-scored with 90 from 82 balls in a 48-run win.
"Tomorrow is a one-day international against a very good side, as we've seen in the past. We've got to get ourselves up for it, simple as that." Paul Collingwood issues a rallying-cry to his post-Ashes England team.
"I've played against him once before for Ireland, against Middlesex, and he admitted himself he was a bit nervous. I'm sure there'll be a bit of banter to make him uncomfortable, but he's a good cricketer and a good lad." Will Porterfield promises not to go easy on his former team-mate, Eoin Morgan.