A pumped-up Jonny Bairstow sealed a series win for England against Ireland – but Eoin Morgan’s team almost made a mess of a simple chase.
Bairstow equalled his country’s fastest one-day fifty, off just 21 balls, and went on to make a punishing 82 off 41. By the time he fell to left-arm quick Josh Little, England were 131 for four in pursuit of a modest 213, and well on their way to a 2-0 lead going into Tuesday’s final game.
But Little then removed Morgan and Moeen Ali – England’s captain and vice-captain – for ducks, and it needed an unbroken seventh-wicket stand of 79 between Sam Billings and David Willey to settle home nerves. Victory came with more than 17 overs to spare.
Jonny Bairstow hit an 82 as England secured an ODI series win over Ireland at Ageas Bowl
The bowling of Ireland’s Josh Little saw England make harder work of a simple chase for win
Bairstow’s innings was admiringly described as ‘ridiculous’ by stand-in head coach Paul Collingwood. And it felt like the work of a player with a point to prove after his omission from England’s Test squad earlier in the summer. As other bowlers have discovered before Ireland’s, Bairstow is never more dangerous.
After his opening partner Jason Roy had fallen for a third-ball duck, driving a wide half-volley from Craig Young low to cover, Bairstow crashed 14 fours and two sixes. The second of them brought him alongside Morgan’s 21-ball half-century against Australia at Trent Bridge in 2018, and he was soon equalling another England record – the 72 innings Joe Root required to tick off 3,000 one-day runs.
‘I’m really proud of that,’ said Bairstow. ‘It’s been a testing journey at times, but to reach that landmark – hopefully there will be many more. I want to keep pushing myself all the way to the World Cup in 2023. I want to be there to see if we can retain it.’
Bairstow was in the mood to save England and in the process ticket off 3,000 one-day runs
Collingwood added: ‘He’s been striking the ball absolutely beautifully in the nets. The way he played here showed how confident he is. He can win games of cricket in 20 overs.’
It was a good job Bairstow was in the mood. James Vince, who had earlier picked up his first wicket for England, failed again to make a case for permanent inclusion when he was bowled by Curtis Campher for 16, while Tom Banton fell to Campher for the second time in the series, leg-before for 15.
James Vince was bowled out by Curtis Campher for 16 after earlier claiming the first wicket
After the first game, Morgan had called for his batsmen to stand up under pressure. But he then slashed Little to cover, before Ali top-edged a pull. Billings, though, looked in a beautiful touch after his career-best 67 not out in the first game, and Willey pulled two big sixes in his 46-ball 47.
Earlier, England welcomed back left-arm seamer Reece Topley for his first international since the 2016 World T20 in India. A year later, he suffered his fourth stress fracture of the back; at the age of 24 he feared his career was over.
But he dusted himself off, and turned out for Sussex in the second half of 2019 before signing for Surrey. Now, he shared the new ball with Willey, and was unlucky not to get a wicket in a lively opening spell.
Reece Topley made his first international outing since 2016 and was unlucky not to get wicket
Not until the last ball of Ireland’s innings, when he bounced out Andy McBrine, did Topley strike – 1,597 days after his previous wicket for England. It was no less than he deserved.
By then, Campher – Ireland’s 21-year-old South African import – had saved the tourists from embarrassment for the second time in three days.
On Thursday, he marked his ODI debut with an unbeaten 59 to help turn a score of 28 for five into 172. Here, he hit a spritely 68 as they recovered from 91 for six to 212 for nine. Never before has an Ireland cricketer passed 50 in his first two ODIs.
As in the first game, Willey had struck early, and Adil Rashid again proved unhittable, bowling the experienced Kevin O’Brien with a googly, and finishing with three for 34. Then came Bairstow.
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