Denly targets Test berth
Joe Denly extended the trend of England debutants turning in decisive performances and hopes his initial steps in international cricket can take him towards the Test team.
Kent opener Denly struck 67, comfortably the biggest innings of the contest, as England began their limited-overs fixtures with a three-run Duckworth/Lewis win over Ireland at Stormont.
The 23-year-old held things together after the loss of two early wickets on a responsive, slow surface as England struggled to 203 for nine.
It was a match-shaping contribution not quite on the level of Jonathan Trott's in the Ashes decider at the Brit Oval last week but one which nevertheless continued England's winning momentum.
Now Denly, who will get his own examination against Australia over the next few days in Twenty20 international cricket and then a seven-match one-day NatWest Series, has an example to follow.
"He has worked pretty hard over the past year and he's got his reward, and if I keep putting in the hard work then hopefully my chance won't be too far away," Denly said.
"I've got my one-day cap now and I want a few more, but Test cricket is the ultimate, and that would be fantastic.
"My aim is to play for England, as many games as I can, and the more you play the more experience you get at playing against the top bowlers in the world. If I can put in some good performances in the one-day cricket then hopefully stand me in good stead."
Denly was forced into Test mode by the bowler-friendly conditions and it was not until the 21st delivery of the innings that he scored his first, and the team's first, runs off the bat.
With Ravi Bopara and Trott out before the first of a number of showers fell, Denly made crease occupation the priority.
"I was a bit nervous - there were a few butterflies - but then excitement took over, and I was just really pleased to get the opportunity to play," reflected Denly.
"But I am not too sure what I was thinking when those early wickets went down. Trent Johnston bowled very well, he's a very experienced bowler and I suppose those conditions suited him very nicely. He just bowled good length and nibbled it around.
"It was a very tough wicket. The ball was sticking in the surface and driving was particularly tough, especially on the front foot.
"We lost a couple of early wickets, which wasn't great, so it was a matter of building and getting up to a competitive total, and we thought 200 was so.
"I already had good memories of the ground because I got my first one-day hundred for Kent here, so I enjoyed coming back again.
"But it did feel like an international debut, I was on a high to get that first one under the belt and I'll remember this day for a long time."
Denly, Trott and Adil Rashid, England's trio of debutants, appeared destined for losing starts when Ireland were 64 for two in the ninth over, chasing a rain-revised total of 116 in 20 overs.
It appeared that they could not lose but England stand-in captain Paul Collingwood's decision to bowl part-time off-spinner Owais Shah proved crucial.
There were still 30 required at a run a ball with five wickets intact when Shah came on but three wickets in his opening two overs at a cost of two runs meant Ireland suddenly faced a monumental task.
"It was a bit tense to be honest, we were always chasing the game," said Denly.
"But Owais got a few wickets for Middlesex last week with his off-spin. He came on and took come crucial wickets, and we managed to scrape home in the end."
To add a late twist to the drama, it was former Ireland batsman Eoin Morgan, England's 12th man that denied his ex-colleagues when he palmed Johnston's lofted drive back into play at long-on from the penultimate delivery.
Had it gone for six, Ireland would have needed just three from the last ball. As it was, Johnston struck that for four.