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Preview: Despite not fielding some of their main players including the likes of Ben Stokes, Joe Root, Jofra Archer, England look poised to clinch the three-match series against Ireland in the second One-Day International (ODI) at the Rose Bowl in Southampton on Saturday.
Ireland won the toss and opted to bat in the must-win fixture, with Josh Little filling in for Barry McCarthy, who has been ruled out for the remainder of the series due to a tear in the muscle at the back of his knee. England too made one change to their XI, with Reece Topley set to play his first ODI in four years, coming in place of Tom Curran.
In what was the first white-ball international fixture after the COVID-19 lockdown following the conclusion of the Test series against West Indies, David Willey and Sam Billings starred with ball and bat respectively as England grabbed the series lead with a six-wicket win.
Opting to field after winning the toss, Willey tore through the Irish top-order to leave them gasping for breath at 28/5 inside the powerplay. Willey, who had missed out on a spot in England's World Cup-winning squad last year, snared four wickets in his first spell, and ultimately collected his maiden international five-for when he dismissed tailender Craig Young to end the Ireland innings, finishing with figures of 5 for 30 to be adjudged the 'Player of the Match'.
The visitors seemed headed for a sub-100 total at one point before a lower-middle-order revival, led by debutant Curtis Campher, guided them to 172. Campher, who had represented his native South Africa at the U-19 level before qualifying for Ireland, remained unbeaten on 59, forging vital partnerships with Kevin O'Brien (22) and Andy McBrine (40) along the way.
Ireland needed early wickets if they were to defend the modest target against the world champions, and the dismissal of Jonny Bairstow in the third over gave them some confidence. The visitors kept collecting wickets at regular intervals for the next 10 overs, and with England at 78/4 in the 14th over, the game seemed wide open.
Billings however, steadied the ship along with Ireland-born England skipper Eoin Morgan with a match-winning partnership — one in which the pair displayed patience in the first few overs before ultimately letting loose the big hits to guide the hosts home with six wickets and more than 22 overs to spare. Billings remained unbeaten on 67, his career-best score.
England: Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, James Vince, Eoin Morgan, Sam Billings, Tom Banton, Moeen Ali, David Willey, Reece Topley, Adil Rashid Saqib Mahmood
Ireland: Paul Stirling, Gareth Delany, Andrew Balbirnie (c), Harry Tector, Kevin O Brien, Lorcan Tucker (wk), Curtis Campher, Simi Singh, Andy McBrine, Joshua Little, Craig Young