Improved Irish make it a match

Some 1,500 people made the journey from Ireland to Lord’s for yesterday’s one-day international against England, and most of them would have come with alternative plans in case of an early finish.

They shut the bars and put up the half-price signs on the catering stalls four hours early at Bristol on Friday, as Ireland slumped to a humiliating seven-wicket defeat in the first ODI at County Ground.

Sunday’s game at Lord’s was another defeat for Ireland, their 11th in a row against a top-eight side since the 2015 World Cup, but how the mood music around the Ireland camp has changed in that 48 hours.

The ‘Blarney Army’, joined by around 2,000 more of the London-based Irish in a 22,000 near-capacity crowd, was treated to a full day of riveting cricket under sunny skies at the Home of Cricket.

England posted 328/6 from their 50 overs, with former Ireland international Eoin Morgan top-scoring with 76, and Jonny Bairstow bludgeoning a quickfire 72 from 44 balls.

England eventually wrapped up an 85-run victory over John Bracewell’s side, but Paul Stirling (48 from 42 balls) and captain William Porterfield (82 from 83 balls) gave their hosts, favourites to win the Champions Trophy on home soil this summer, enough nervy moments to make them wonder whether a repeat of Bangalore might be on the cards.

But that Kevin O’Brien-inspired Ireland victory at the 2011 World Cup was against an England side struggling to adapt to the rapid tactical changes of white-ball cricket.

England’s 2017 ODI team is a different proposition, filled with big-hitting match-winners such as Morgan, a 90mph fast bowler in Mark Wood, and runs all the way down the batting order.

Yesterday’s man-of-the-match Bairstow is unlikely to even get into the England ODI starting 11 for the Champions Trophy when Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes return from IPL duty.

So this is an England side of real quality and real pedigree, and Ireland more than matched them for large chunks of the game.

But it is in those critical moments of pressure where class and experience tells. England were 229-5 in the 42nd over after George Dockrell dismissed Sam Billings, and Ireland were on their way to a chaseable total of around 280.

But Bairstow and his Yorkshire team-mate Adil Rashid (39 off 25 balls) upped the tempo, and England thrashed 61 off the final 24 deliveries of the innings, with Bairstow hitting two sixes and a four off Barry McCarthy’s final over.

“We bowled well enough early on to get some rewards, but you know you have to be on top of your game bowling against top-quality opposition for the whole 50 overs,” Durham bowler McCarthy said.

“There was a chance there that we could have kept them to 280-290, which would have been ideal, but it only takes three or four balls for top-quality players to swing the momentum in their favour.”

Although disappointed by the loss, Porterfield was pleased to wipe away the memory of the defeat in Bristol, ahead of the Tri-Series against Bangladesh and New Zealand, which starts in Dublin next week. “It would have been difficult to walk away just having Friday’s game and we put a lot of things right today and we’ve got to keep improving and keep moving up,” the Ireland captain said.


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