Ireland: 126 all out (33.0 overs; Balbirnie 30, Joyce 23; Rashid 5-27, Root 2-9)
England: 127/3 (20.0 overs; Hales 55, Root 49*; Chase 3-44)
In a nutshell
An old fashioned ODI massacre as a massively outclassed Ireland team were beaten before the lunch interval.
In more words
It’s a reflection of how reactive the ICC can tend to be that the opportunity for Ireland in top level international cricket appears to have passed. Between 2007 and 2013 they were far and away the best Associate team, genuinely competing with those at the lower end of the ODI rankings, yet overtures to join the top table remained elusive. There is now seemingly a chance for them to join those echelons and eventually gain Test status…but that team has gone now. What we’re left with is the remnants of the golden days, now past their best and increasingly no longer playing in county cricket (with some of their erstwhile team mates now retired), and a smattering of players coming through who have yet to experience the necessary exposure to high class bowling in particular. Expansion of cricket across the world is an absolute necessity and in years to come the governing bodies should reflect on how they missed the boat with Irish cricket; especially when they come to consider how to progress with Afghanistan’s fledgling team.
As for today, Ireland actually started reasonably brightly. David Willey failed to find any real swing with the new ball as is his normal method and as a consequence was expensive early on, Ed Joyce and Paul Stirling racking up an opening stack of 40 in decent time. From thereon in, it was one way traffic. Stirling was defeated by the extra pace of Mark Wood – looking sharp at over 90mph at points, we just have to hope his body can stand up to regular cricket – while Joyce swiftly followed him back to the pavilion after somehow missing a 78mph half volley from Willey that should really have been clipped straight to the square leg boundary. This appeared to be a pitch set up for pace bowling and accordingly England had picked four seamers, omitting Moeen Ali in the process; yet it was spin which did the damage. Or more accurately, lack of spin.
Will Porterfield clipped Joe Root to mid-off after a tortuous 13 off 45 balls and what followed was a procession largely to Adil Rashid. This was not a day when the Yorkshireman was ripping balls past the outside edge, more that the Irish batsmen failed to pick his variations and the googly was his main weapon, with both O’Brien brothers and Gary Wilson falling lbw to him. Tailenders Stuart Thompson and Tim “Meat Is” Murtagh perished near the end to give him his first ever five wicket haul in ODIs.
A meagre total of 126 was at least 150 shy of par and the only question was whether England would wrap matters up without the need for a full 45 minute break innings. Jason Roy fell in the first over – he will be disappointed to have missed out, especially having not had much playing time in the IPL, and especially when much like Joyce, he fell to a half volley on middle and leg – but Alex Hales (after some early luck) and Joe Root batted in their usual fashion to keep England at a run rate of around 7 an over to make the outcome a mere formality. Hales fell after one shot too many and allowed Jonny Bairstow to finish the job with his Headingley team mate. Game over by 2.45pm and inside 30 overs of the scheduled finish. Any team can have a bad day, but this looked a serious mismatch from the time that Ireland’s opening pair fell.
Players of the day
Rashid was as excellent as his figures suggested, adapting well to the conditions and recognising the fallibility of his opponents. Of course, the question remains as to whether he can truly bowl to the very best players of spin, and this will be tested in the Champions Trophy. But it augurs well that he bowled very little rubbish today and it is a good early season boost for him. As mentioned previously, Wood’s pace was very much up and it is that explosiveness which will be required (and for which he has been selected) when the tournament comes around. Root did, of course, look in total control while seeing the team home. On the Irish side, Peter Chase looked short of genuine class but did show enough heart to bowl eight overs off the reel and pick up three wickets.
Disappointments of the day
All of Stirling, Joyce and Andy Balbirnie will be devastated to have got starts on a blameless pitch and thrown it away. Balbirnie in particular was playing well and scoring fluently before playing a cut to a delivery which was never in the right area to do so from Jake Ball. Ireland’s fielding was slovenly at best which is disappointing and uncharacteristic of a John Bracewell team; Hales was dropped twice, most glaringly by Niall O’Brien behind the stumps from a regulation legside nick.
David Willey remains reliant on swing in this format and when there is none, as today, he can look highly innocuous. A left arm bowler is an asset in modern ODI cricket, but not if he’s sending down 81mph dreck onto the pads. Roy and captain Eoin Morgan both missed out with lax shots and there will not be the same margin for error against better opponents.
The second and final ODI of this mini-series is on Sunday at Lord’s and it is imperative that Ireland focus on producing an at least competitive display – the eyes of the cricketing world are on them because everyone remembers the near decade struggle of the Bangladesh team to get any kind of foothold in the game. Batterings that see the game completed four hours before the scheduled finish are no good for anyone.
Competition for places in that Champions Trophy XI for England remains high and it is likely that Moeen will return on Sunday, perhaps at the expense of Willey or Liam Plunkett. Every game counts.