England dampen Ireland spirits
England’s new-look one-day international side survived a nervy batting display and a dangerous cameo from their Bangalore conqueror Kevin O’Brien to beat Ireland by 11 runs in the RSA Challenge at Clontarf.
Their trio of debutants had a tough introduction to international cricket; James Taylor and Ben Stokes making four between them and Scott Borthwick on the receiving end of two big sixes from O’Brien.
But, having made 201 for eight in 42 overs, Eoin Morgan’s side successfully defended a rain-revised Duckworth-Lewis target of 129 in 23 overs.
Jonathan Trott, who made a patient 69, and first-time captain Morgan, another half-centurion with 59, did the bulk of the batting work, while Ireland’s chances of getting over the line suffered an irreparable blow when Jade Dernbach yorked O’Brien - the man whose 63-ball 113 stunned England in the World Cup.
Starting the chase Paul Stirling hit one fearful six over cover but fell two balls later attempting a second big blow off Steven Finn.
Ed Joyce, who won 17 ODI caps for England before recommitting to Ireland, became Finn’s second victim when Craig Kieswetter took a thin edge behind the stumps.
The rain came after 13 overs of the reply, William Porterfield and Niall O’Brien the men at the crease.
That left Ireland on 42 for two but the stubborn showers threatened to frustrate both teams.
The statisticians busily calculated and recalculated the Duckworth-Lewis target as the rain stopped and started, eventually settling on an equation of 87 off the remaining 60 balls.
Durham leg-spinner Borthwick was handed his first over for England after the restart and produced some sharp fielding off his second delivery to run out Porterfield.
That brought Kevin O’Brien to the crease and the man whose unforgettable hundred downed England in March soon found his range.
He heaved his third and fourth balls over the ropes, seeing Borthwick out of the attack after an over and delighting the home fans.
His brother Niall fell looking for a six of his own, pulling Dernbach to Finn at square-leg, with Nigel Jones lasting four balls before being bowled by a Ravi Bopara slower ball.
Kevin O’Brien made 26 from 15 balls before a fine Dernbach yorker clattered leg stump, taking Ireland’s hopes with it.
From then on Ireland found the odd boundary but lost John Mooney and Gary Wilson to the cause to finish on 117 for eight.
England were grateful for a 102-run third-wicket stand between Morgan and Trott after they had been put in to bat.
Ireland started well, Mooney shining with the new ball in the absence of an injured Trent Johnston, and Kieswetter was first man out in the eighth over.
He had 14, including a top-edged six, when Mooney found a nick and Niall O’Brien took a low catch behind the stumps.
That brought the highly-rated Taylor to the crease but he managed just one run - a risky single - before Boyd Rankin hurried him on the pull and Wilson snared him at midwicket.
That brought Trott and Morgan together and the pair looked comfortable after an hour’s rain delay reduced the innings to 42 overs. Morgan, warmly welcomed by the Irish fans, quickly settled into a groove on his hometown pitch, thrashing Kevin O’Brien for successive fours to take the total past 50.
England’s Ireland-born captain was beginning to time the ball sweetly and clubbed his fourth boundary over mid-off as he overtook Trott.
The Warwickshire man took the hint and promptly lifted Alex Cusack over cover, following up with a reverse swept four off George Dockrell as the run-rate spiked.
A sequence of 15 consecutive singles saw England to three figures before Morgan deposited Dockrell for six into the on-side to break the trend.
Half-centuries followed for both batsmen, Morgan’s from 52 balls and Trott’s from 78, but Stirling made the crucial breakthrough soon after.
The off-spinner induced a leading edge from Morgan and defied his portly frame to take a diving return catch.
England faltered badly thereafter, Trott’s already stately scoring rate dipping again before he holed out for 69 and all three all-rounders failing to make an impression.
Jones accounted for Bopara and Samit Patel, who made two and 13 respectively, while Stokes handed Stirling a second caught and bowled having made only three.
Borthwick, with 15, and Chris Woakes, who contributed 19 not out, saw their side beyond 200.