World champions England return to 50-over action on home soil for the first time since beating New Zealand in the World Cup Final last year. Eoin Morgan’s men were last in competitive action in February against South Africa where they played out a 1-1 draw. The Three Lions were not at full strength during the series and will once again be without key players due to the split between the Test and the ODI sides. The coronavirus pandemic forced the ECB to truncate the season, which resulted in splitting the two teams.Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer are all absent from the side. However, it does present an opportunity for many young players to force themselves into the squad for upcoming series under the watchful eye of coach Paul Collingwood. Eoin Morgan’s leadership will once again be crucial as Ireland have a lot of savvy players in their line-up and are more than capable of pulling of a surprise result. Ireland defeated England in the 2011 World Cup in India and ran them close last year in a Test match. The world champions will be aware of a potential banana skin and will be determined to kick off the cycle for the next four years with an imposing display.
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England head into the series without a raft of key players, although Morgan and the selectors will see it as an opportunity to bolster the depth of the squad. Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow will remain at the top of the order, while Morgan will be there to settle the middle of the line-up. Spinners Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid will provide control in the absence of Woakes and Archer.
David Willey returns to the fold after being dropped for the World Cup in favour of Archer. He will certainly have a point to prove on his recall. There are a number of exciting bowlers available for Morgan and Collingwood to select.
Tom Curran will spearhead the attack after impressing in the limited-overs formats over the last two years. Willey will operate alongside him, but there could be an opening for one of Reece Topley or Saqib Mahmood for the third seamer’s spot, with Richard Gleeson and Lewis Gregory also available on standby. It highlights England’s depth even with Woakes and Archer absent.
Unfortunately for Phil Salt the presence of Bairstow and Roy has blocked his entry into the side even after his impressive century for the England Lions. Tom Banton will get the opportunity to attempt to solidify his place in the line-up in the middle order after making his debut during the winter.
Joe Denly has returned from Test duty after being dropped from the red-ball format. He gets the nod ahead of Sam Hain and Ben Duckett. The 34-year-old will be under huge pressure to perform as will Sam Billings and James Vince with an array of talent breathing down their necks.
Ireland have plenty of experience in their squad to take on England – notably Kevin O’Brien, who was the architect of their win over the Three Lions in 2011. Skipper Andrew Balbirnie has 67 ODIs under his belt and a solid average of 31, heading into the contest. He can rely on the veterans alongside him to ease the burden somewhat, although it will take a special effort to compete with the world champions on their home soil.
O’Brien has the knockout potential in the lower order, notching an impressive 28 off 14 balls against the Lions in the warm-up match. Opener Paul Stirling also found his form with a half-century. The 29-year-old will be an important player at the top of the order to set the tone. Balbirnie and William Porterfield will have to retain the intensity, and have proven calibre at international and county level in England.
Questions will be raised over the quality of the bowling attack. Boyd Rankin has played a lot of county cricket over the last 10 years and appeared for England in the 2013/14 Ashes series. The 36-year-old has good statistics, but the rise in quality will be a test for him and the rest of the bowlers. Barry McCarthy, George Dockrell and Mark Adair face the same problem. They’ve all had their moments in international cricket, but will face a barrage from the England batting line-up that will take a lot of skill and character to withstand.
Conditions should be perfect for cricket at the Ageas Bowl. The forecast is for bright sunshine and temperatures of 23 degrees. The ground has been utilised in the warm-up matches and if the wicket is anything like the ones previously used then it should be a high-scoring affair.
England are world champions for a reason and even without a slew of their key players they can still field a line-up that would beat most teams in the world. The Three Lions are cultivating the next generation of talent to win the World Cup in 2023. Ireland have plucky players and are capable of pulling off a shock. The opener might be their chance, but expect England to walk away with a comfortable win to kick off the series.
England to beat Ireland 1st ODI – 1.11 Betway