There was always likely to be a cruel inevitability about the result of today’s game and unfortunately this reigned true in Bristol today. It has been almost two years since the teams last met in wet and windy Malahide, with whispers abound about the fate of then England coach Peter Moores after a disastrous World Cup and a ‘mediocre’ performance in the West Indies. Moores as we know was indeed sacked and England’s fortunes in white ball cricket have improved immensely since.
So then, we come onto the game with what on paper looked like a bit of a mismatch. On the one hand England’s white ball stock has never been higher, on the other hand Ireland seem to be on the way down with some of their more experienced players getting a bit long in the tooth and the new arrivals not living up to previous expectations. That the first major series between England and Ireland on English soil should take place when there is such a disparity between the teams is at best unfortunate. The Irish, so long the brave underdog with sides from the recent past, folded without so much of a whimper and thus this may do their aspirations of playing the full member side more often some significant damage. It certainly could be used by the ECB to justify England’s rather snotty approach of playing their second string for a one off match each summer moving forward.
As for the game itself, Ireland surprised most people by opting to bat first, especially as the make up of the team suggested they would be more effective chasing rather than setting a score and for the first few overs, it looked like this ploy could indeed be effective. This was aided and abetted by a few poor overs at the start from both Willey and Wood (though the latter soon began to find his rhythm and more importantly his pace) and from some aggressive striking from Sterling. However after both their openers departed and with Balbirnie also dismissed for a breezy 30, Ireland contrived to collapse from 80-2 to 126 all out, a feat that some past English teams would have been proud of. Ironically enough it was the spinners that ripped out the spine of the Irish middle and lower orders, Rashid bowled quite fantastically with the Irish simply unable to pick his variations and Joe Root also cemented his reputation of having a ‘lucky arm’. Naturally Nasser and chums weren’t as fulsome in their praise of Rashid as others might have been as Rashid is now described as a confidence bowler when he does well and fragile when he doesn’t, the poor guy simply can’t win, an outsider one may say.
With Ireland bowled out well before the Lunch interval, England has 18 or so over to chase the Irish total before the scheduled break. Indeed it appeared at one stage that we were going to get the farcical situation where they would take lunch with England needing 10 or so to win the game. Thankfully for once the umpires saw sense and extended the session by another 15 minutes for England to chase down the Irish score. Cricket has done enough of shooting itself in the foot recently, so it was refreshing that common sense finally prevailed. As for the England innings itself, Roy appeared to think that he was still at the IPL and ended up flicking a ball down the throat of midwicket for a duck, Hales played some good shots whilst being dropped twice in putting on a fairly fluent if sketchy half century and Joe Root did what Joe Root always does and made batting on a slightly tricky wicket look embarrassingly easy.
I would suggest that neither team got much out of this encounter sadly and we can all but hope that Ireland show more grit and application at Lords to make this a contest; otherwise it could be another early finish at the Home of Cricket. This would be firstly be a wasted opportunity for an Irish team looking to gain positive exposure on the world stage and secondly for the Lords members, who wouldn’t have time to gorge on their expensive hampers. Will someone please think of the Members!!
As ever, please add any thoughts below and have a good weekend one and all.