327/8, 329/7, March 02, 2011 and Chinnaswamy Stadium, does it ring a bell?
England and Ireland share a history, politically and even in sporting events. But most of the rivalry aspect is down to football, and not so much cricket. However, there is a black stain in England’s cricketing history – 2011 World Cup loss against Ireland. Even though 11 years have gone down since then, the memories and the wound will still be fresh for the Three Lions.
For Ireland, there is a lot more at stake than just the rivalry, having lost their opening encounter against Sri Lanka. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the Irish side never arrived in the second innings during the Islander’s run-chase. Now, they can’t afford to do that, considering how they still have the likes of Australia and New Zealand ahead of them.
To paint a picture, the Blackcaps have started the group in the most impressive of manners, with a +4.450 NRR win against Australia. Sri Lanka registered a +2.467 win. England are third, despite their win, and we have seen multiple times how teams have not made the cut due to that very factor.
Will Ireland come as a surprise and dent England’s chances of making it to the semi-final stage of the competition?
England reaping fruit in the Sam Curran crop
Prior to England’s visit to Pakistan, Sam Curran was perhaps one of the most confusing crops in this England nursery. But thanks to them trusting him to the fullest, they are reaping the rewards. In their previous clash against Afghanistan, the Three Lions made the big call of fielding Chris Woakes, Curran and Mark Wood coupled with the two spinners. It was probably a big risk, but it paid off.
Curran was immaculate with the ball, including his inch-perfect short-bowling tactics, that shot Afghanistan in their leg. The left-armer ended with his best figures in T20s, 5/10, which also was the best-ever figure for an English bowler. Afghanistan may have helped him with some poor batting but now, England have a role for the left-arm seamer.
“I think he's got great character for that role. He's thriving with the extra responsibility. He enjoys the tough moments. He demands the ball in those situations which is a great attitude to have. The most pleasing thing about Sam is he always wants to bowl,” said Buttler, highlighting Curran’s importance.
Since the start of the seven-match series against Pakistan, Curran has the most wickets for the Three Lions, with 17 wickets, averaging 14.2, showing how integral he is now to the England team. Irish batters have had a tough time against left-arm pacers, with their run-rate being just 7.5, losing 20 wickets.
Curran might well be the key.
Ireland have to forget the Sri Lanka nightmare
Ireland showed plenty of promise during the group stage of the competition, and the same was expected of them in the Super 12 stage against the top-dogs. However, in just their opener against Sri Lanka, they went flat on their face. Nothing went in their favour, starting from their dismal batting performance to how Sri Lanka breezed through the run-chase, losing by nine wickets.
Their skipper, Andrew Balbirnie tried a scoop having played just the four balls only to get cleaned up in the process. Lorcan Tucker’s dismissal wasn’t different either, with the right-hander going for a full-blooded sweep only to completely miss the ball. And then when their in-form batter Paul Stirling found the only fielder in the deep against a favourable match-up in Dhananjaya de Silva, it was the start of the end for Ireland.
Barring Gareth Delany, none of the bowlers managed to have any sort of impact on the proceedings, with economy rates of 11.25, 8, 8, 8 and 10, making it easy for the Islanders to register their first win of the Super 12 stage. If you ask Balbirnie, he would equally be cross about their display from the first clash, asking for the batting unit to put on a better batting display. Can they against their rivals?
England have definitely found their strongest playing XI at the moment, despite last-minute injury to their vital cog Reece Topley. With that impressive win on their back, England are not going to make any sort of change to their line-up, barring any last-minute injuries.
England: Jos Buttler (c & wk), Alex Hales, Dawid Malan, Ben Stokes, Harry Brook, Moeen Ali, Liam Livingstone, Sam Curran, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Mark Wood
Despite the hammering against Sri Lanka, this is perhaps Ireland’s strongest playing XI, considering the conditions in Australia. However, the only change if any could be Dockrell sitting out, if he is not 100% fit.
Ireland: Paul Stirling, Andrew Balbirnie (c), Lorcan Tucker (wk), Harry Tector, Curtis Campher, George Dockrell, Gareth Delany, Mark Adair, Simi Singh, Barry McCarthy, Joshua Little