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England vs Ireland in 2020

A review of England vs Ireland, 2020

Lawrence Booth
Paul Stirling and Andy Balbirnie shared a second-wicket partnership worth more than 200 runs, England v Ireland, 3rd ODI, Ageas Bowl, August 4, 2020

Paul Stirling and Andy Balbirnie shared a second-wicket partnership worth more than 200 runs  •  PA Photos via Getty images

One-day internationals (3): England 2 (20pts), Ireland 1 (10pts)
Ireland's first full series of any kind in England was rescued from anonymity by one of the great run-chases. At 2-0 down against the world champions, who were playing at home for the first time since lifting the trophy a year earlier, the Irish risked going unnoticed in the small window between England's Test series against West Indies and Pakistan. But not even the absence of spectators - or seven of the 11 England players from the World Cup final - could detract from centuries by opener Paul Stirling and captain Andrew Balbirnie as Ireland knocked off 329, emphatically opening their account in the first matches to count towards the ICC's new Super League.
The ultimate prize, for the league's top eight, was direct qualification for the 2023 World Cup in India. No matter that the series was already lost: the euphoria echoing around an empty Rose Bowl confirmed that victory over England - nine years on from Ireland's only other win against them, in India - mattered as much as ever.
The three matches had been scheduled for mid-September, at Trent Bridge, Edgbaston and The Oval. But with the ECB trying to juggle fixtures amid the pandemic, and a planned visit by the Australians in July pushed back by two months, Ireland were offered a one-stop trip to Southampton. They gladly accepted, bringing a squad of 22, with 14 named for each game.
England's biosecure one-day bubble included 24, though leg-spinner Matt Parkinson pulled out with an ankle injury; Joe Denly was a late addition, having been released from the Test party, only to suffer a back spasm that ruled him out of the series. He was the lone transfer between the Test and one-day groups. To keep them otherwise separate, Paul Collingwood assumed the head coach's role, with Chris Silverwood in charge of the Test squad in Manchester.
England won the first game with 22 overs to spare, and the second with 17. But complacent strokeplay meant they twice needed the steadying influence of Sam Billings, playing because of Denly's injury. James Vince was especially culpable (though always elegant), squandering his latest crack at international cricket by making 25, 16 and 16.
In the second game, Jonny Bairstow - still smarting from his omission from the Test squad - belted 82 off 41. But the series award went to another aggrieved Yorkshire cricketer, David Willey, who had been replaced in the World Cup squad at the last minute by Jofra Archer. In his first appearance since then, he helped reduce Ireland to 28 for five; in his second, he took two more early wickets, and hit an unbeaten 47; in his third, he made 51 from 42. Now aged 30, he said he was determined to enjoy his new lease of life - and it showed.
When Eoin Morgan scored a 78-ball hundred in the third game to rescue England from 44 for three, a whitewash looked inevitable. But Stirling and Balbirnie put on a blistering 214, the seventh-highest stand against England in ODIs, before Kevin O'Brien - who had starred in Ireland's previous win against them - supplied the finishing touches with 20-year-old Harry Tector.
Another newcomer, 21-year-old Curtis Campher - a South African-born all-rounder who owed his Irish passport to a grandmother from Londonderry - made a half-century in each of the first two matches, and claimed five wickets with his bustling seamers.
Both players summed up Ireland's desire to give a new generation a chance as they built towards 2023. Their 35-year-old former captain, William Porterfield, didn't get a game, while 36-year-old seamer Boyd Rankin missed out after suffering a recurrence of a back injury.
England also had an eye on the future. Tom Banton, aged 21, played all three games, registering a maiden international fifty, and there was a recall in the second match for left-arm seamer Reece Topley, after an injury-hit gap of more than four years; he was promptly ruled out of the third with a groin strain. Moeen Ali was handed the vice-captaincy, and took charge in the field after Morgan tweaked his groin while making his hundred. But he could do nothing to halt Stirling or Balbirnie, completing a quiet few days in which he notched more runs (one) than wickets.