Stirling 142 And Balbirnie 113 Knock Help Ireland Registering Their Victory:
Ireland pulled off their second triumph against England and their first ODI triumph against major opposition since the 2015 World Cup, with Bangalore hero Kevin O’Brien hitting the winning run following centuries from Paul Stirling and Andy Balbirnie laying the foundations.
Chasing 329 to win-the same score they earned in their famous 2011 scalp-Stirling hammered 142 and Balbirnie 113 in a 214 partnership that took the chase back. While a late wobble threatened to ruin their challenge, Harry Tector and O’Brien added 50 in 5.2 overs to secure a memorable victory.
An Irishman had also done the heavy lifting with the bat for England, Eoin Morgan the standout in their total of 328 all out, but daily wickets derailed them on a rugged, fresh pitch that was excellent for batting all over. But the run chase should have been more of a cakewalk, with a last-wicket stand of 30.
2-0 After two fighting implosions in the series, Balbirnie stuck with his youngsters but realized it was the senior batsmen who had to step up. Stirling had struggled badly in the series to date against David Willey, but started here confidently and positively, smashing his third ball through cover to get the chase up and running.
The Powerplay was largely sedate, with Ireland concentrating on preserving wickets after terrible beginnings in the first two games, before Stirling whacked Saqib Mahmood over square leg for two towering sixes to finish in the eighth. Gareth Delany appeared out of sorts, shaping himself to flick off his hip but losing his leg stump to Willey, but they had a base to develop from at 55 for 1 after the first 10.
In the first two games, Ireland were not able to get through spin, failing either to rotate the strike or to hit boundaries as Adil Rashid spun a web around its novice middle order. Yet they opted to attack with their best two spin players together, with Balbirnie sweeping Moeen Ali and Stirling bludgeoning through midwicket, square leg and offside.
After a brief experiment with the medium pace of James Vince, Moeen-standing in as captain after Morgan hurt his groin while batting-turned after 25 overs to his seamers, hoping they could break a partnership that had sniffed past 100. They stemmed the flow of runs successfully but could not find an opening, despite a chance for Vince at midwicket to drop a difficult catch off Mahmood with Stirling on 95.
Stirling raised his hundred with a nudge for one, scarcely deigning to celebrate his first ton against England, and when Willey returned for his second spell, Stirling greeted him with a silky mid-off drive and a wristy square leg flick. Balbirnie managed to sweep Moeen at will with a slash over point off Tom Curran, switching to a hundred of his own.
Yet runs from Stirling started drying up. On 139 Vince gave him another chance, dropping a steepler running back from midwicket, until a terrible mix-up saw him at the end of the non-striker short of his ground thanks to some good work from Curran. Ireland sent Tector in at No. 4 instead of O’Brien, who started shakily on Rashid.
With England putting on the pressure and ticking the necessary rate above nine, Balbirnie determined that he couldn’t afford to play the final over Rashid. He clipped a pair of twos and then went for the jugular, choosing Billings at long-off only. This finally took O’Brien to the crease, who watched Rashid’s Tector cream from cover before enduring a lbw analysis himself.
O’Brien then slammed a Willey waist-high no-ball for a towering six over midwicket, before Tector once again sliced Curran through the coverings. He got a life from Tom Banton, who shelled a tough long-on chance, and failed to get bat on pitch, but O’Brien crunched Willey over the third man, and Tector sculpted Curran around point to leave 10 out of 8.
Mahmood sent down a chest-high no-ball with 5 off 4 required, which Tector pulled out for one. O’Brien clipped off the pads to leave the appropriate one, then swung and missed a long shot, before pulling from the distant dressing room behind the square to cue brilliant celebrations.
The frenetic innings of England had been underpinned by the 14th ODI hundred of Morgan. With Banton, who made his first international half-century from No. 5 to drive England towards an overwhelming number, he added 146 in 18.2 overs before a second middle-order hiccup in just as many games threatened to fully unravel their innings.
Willey thrashed 51 out of No. 8 to drive them past 300 but their 328 was at best a par score. Balbirnie ‘s decision to bowl first had immediately reaped dividends when Craig Young dismissed Jason Roy with the game’s fourth hit, forcing an outswinger with hard hands to slip second. This was the fifteenth time Roy had been out in his career’s first over of an ODI, nine times more than anybody else in that period, and Young had him in the series for the third time.
After a long-standing ankle problem, Mark Adair peeled one off the seam to burst through Jonny Bairstow, and when UltraEdge showed James Vince had an inside edge on a Young inswinger, England was in trouble at 44 for 3.
That would have meant the middle order dropping anchor in a different period and knocking the ball around for 15 overs, but this isn’t the England style. Then, Morgan-back at No. 4 after dropping down to No. 6 in the first two games-appeared like French General Ferdinand Foch: “My middle is giving way, my right is withdrawing, excellent condition, I’m attacking.”
With Banton for help, Morgan handled Ireland’s seamers with absolute scorn, hitting, slashing, and pulling effortlessly to rack up a half-century 39 ball-40 of those runs coming in boundaries. Balbirnie dropped the one chance he gave on 67. He was especially brutal when Ireland fell short, swatting Josh Little through a backward square for a pair of sixes, before drilling him for a 78-ball hundred dead straight down the court.
Just then, without warning, another wobble from the middle-over threatened to push England off course. Morgan was the first to go, slashing Little high on the off side that Tector swallowed up at the rear, before Banton-who looked much more confident in this inning, scoring fluently with good pace and rhythm-was trapped on the pad by a perfect, flat ball from part-time Delany legspinner.
Balbirnie had struck during the series with his field placings to his credit and that hasn’t changed today. Once a new man came in, he called in tight fielders on both sides of the wicket, and reaped the reward when the skittish Ali chipped a Curtis Campher back-of-a-length ball to short cover.
Billings, the man in shape, couldn’t make three decisive innings in a row, chipping the second ball of Young’s second spell to mid-off. In the space of seven overs 190 for 3 had turned into 216 for 7, and Ireland sensed a real opening. And though Willey and Curran pulled them to a respectable sum, that would not prove sufficient.