When Ireland face England in today’s Royal London one-day international at Malahide, the familiar face of a favourite son will be 5,000 miles away in Delhi.
Dublin-born England captain Eoin Morgan, who played club cricket for Malahide as a teenager, has been given permission by the England & Wales Cricket Board [ECB] to miss the match to fulfil his lucrative €200,000, six-week Indian Premier League contract with Sunrisers Hyderabad.
The ECB’s decision to allow Morgan to skip the game has proved controversial among England supporters, but Ireland captain William Porterfield, a close friend of Morgan since childhood, says he understands the player’s keenness to maximise his earning potential.
“I have never been in that position myself, but it happens a lot with professional cricketers across the world,” he said.
“That is the way cricket is going — some of the New Zealand team will arrive two days before the Lord’s Test [against England, which starts May 21] following the IPL final.”
Porterfield’s side had seemed set for victory against the old enemy when the sides last met at the county Dublin venue in September 2013, until Morgan smashed a superb, unbeaten century in a 226-run partnership with Ravi Bopara that won the match for his adopted country.
Ireland have yet to win an ODI against a top-eight ranked country on home soil, and Porterfield, who will make his 200th international appearance at Malahide, is keen to end that unwanted record.
“It is something we want to put right,” he said.
“We have been very competitive in some of the games, and we were unfortunate not to beat England in Stormont [in 2009] and the last time here.”
Nottinghamshire batsman James Taylor will captain the England team in Morgan’s absence, and has fond memories of his previous match at the ground, a 10,000 capacity pop-up stadium that takes three weeks to build and a week to dismantle.
“I was lucky enough to play here two years ago and the atmosphere was unbelievable — being heckled by 10,000 Irishmen was good fun!” he said.
“It will be something new for some of the lads, but we are all really looking forward to the challenge, tough as it is going to be.”
Ireland batsman Niall O’Brien upped the stakes ahead of the match by claiming the home side would be favourites against an experimental England team likely to feature five debutants.
O’Brien later joked “I’ve given England their team talk!” but Taylor accepts that Ireland’s greater international experience, home advantage and a seaming pitch under cloudy skies will make them dangerous opponents.
“I think Ireland have every right to feel confident given the way they have performed recently,” he said.
Taylor nonetheless feels that his side, featuring the explosive batting firepower of Alex Hales, Jason Roy and Sam Billings, will prevail and preserve England’s unbeaten record on Irish soil.
“I haven’t looked at the bookies’ odds yet to see who are favourites, but we also have every right to feel confident,” he said.
“I have a talented and exciting side under me, so I am sure we will come out on top.”
Assistant coach Pete Johnston will prepare the Ireland side for the match, with the newly-appointed head coach John Bracewell in attendance only in an observational capacity.
“I’m looking at how the players go about their business, their knowledge and their adaptability,” Bracewell said.
“I will observe that with a coach’s eye, and try to remain independent so I can make a sound assessment.”
Former New Zealand head coach Bracewell, who led the Black Caps to the 2007 World Cup semi-final, says he was eyeing up the Ireland job even before his predecessor Phil Simmons departed in March to take over as head coach of the West Indies.
“There were rumours towards the end of last season that Phil Simmons could go to the West Indies,” the 57-year-old said.
“I had a conversation with my wife and I remember saying ‘that would be a good job’ to her.
“I spoke to an agent about it, just socially, and told him that that it was a job that would really suit my personality.
“They are a country that wants Test cricket, and they need to set up the whole infrastructure to achieve that. It suits me to get involved in a coaching role that is all-encompassing and holistic.”
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