Stirling, Balbirnie lead Ireland to historic win

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04 Aug 2020 | 12:01 PM
authorHardik Worah

Stirling, Balbirnie lead Ireland to historic win

The two scored centuries and helped Ireland chase down a record target of 329 against England

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Score 329 in the second innings against England in an ODI?

Ireland - Absolutely, been there, done that!

Remember Ireland chasing down the 328-run target against England at Bangalore in the 2011 World Cup? Well, it happened again, but this time at Southampton.  

The series was lost and when England amassed 328 in the first innings, not many of us would have imagined that Ireland would once again pull off a heist. The target was 329, exactly what they finished on in Bangalore, and Paul Stirling and Andrew Balbirnie slammed stunning centuries before Harry Tector and Kevin O'Brien (yes, the same man) put the finishing touches and led Ireland to a historic win in the third and final One-Day International at the Ageas Bowl on Tuesday (August 4). To add to that, there were crucial World Cup Super League points up for grabs and Ireland now have 10 points to their name.

Asked to bat, England lost their top-three wickets inside the first powerplay before Morgan (84-ball 106) and Banton (51-ball 58) took over and added 146 runs for the fourth wicket. Everything was going smoothly for the home team before they lost four wickets in the space of 26 runs. It looked like Ireland would restrict England to somewhere around 250 but the man-in-form Willey, batting at No. 8, smoked 51 off 42 deliveries to lead England to 328 in 49.5 overs.

In reply, Stirling (128-ball 142) and Balbirnie (112-ball 113) put on 214 for the second wicket and ensured Ireland were in the game till the very end. Then Tector (29*) and O'Brien (21*) got the job done and helped Ireland to avoid a series whitewash.  

Earlier, paceman Craig Young once again gave Ireland an early breakthrough as he accounted for Jason Roy (1) for the third time in the series. The right-arm seamer got one to nip away from just outside off and Roy ended up edging it to second slip. Roy finished this series with just 25 runs. The surface was offering enough movement and both Young and Mark Adair, playing his first game of the series, made the most of it. 

Before the dust had settled, Jonny Bairstow, who scored a fiery 82 in the second ODI, tried to heave Adair out of the park but ended up getting knocked over for just 4. James Vince then did what James Vince generally does... Played a couple of eye-pleasing shots, of course the cover drive, and then threw his wicket away. The right-hander became Young's second victim as he was caught behind for 16.

England were reduced to 44 for 3 but that didn't stop Morgan from taking the attack to the Irish bowlers. The left-hander started with a couple of scratchy boundaries but it didn't take him much time to settle in. The skipper smashed Young for four boundaries in the space of three overs and pounced on anything full or short. Banton, who generally bats up the order, has been batting in the middle-order in this series. The 21-year-old rotated the strike perfectly but also pounced on every bad delivery. The right-hander then hit his arch-nemesis Curtis Campher for 4, 6 and 4 in one over to make his intentions very clear.

Banton tonked offspinner Andy McBrine for a six down the ground in the 24th over and got to his maiden ODI fifty in the same over. In the very next over, Morgan hammered Joshua Little for a six and four to bring up his 14th ODI hundred, 13th for England. The left-hander however couldn't carry on and was dismissed in the 27th over, but only after smoking 15 fours and four maximums. 

The hosts then lost Banton and Moeen Ali (1) in the space of six deliveries and England were reduced to 203 for 6 by the end of 30 overs. While Banton was pinned right in front by legspinner Gareth Delany, Moeen fell to Campher in the very next over. The onus was once again on Sam Billings and David Willey to dig England out of trouble. Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie knew these two could take the game away from them and that's why he brought Young back into the attack. The premier seamer didn't disappoint his captain and got the key scalp of Billings. Willey, who scored a match-winning 47* in the second encounter, was then at it again. 

The left-handed lower-order batsman batted with complete freedom and found an able ally in Tom Curran. The 30-year-old has been amazing this series and once again gave England a much-needed boost to guide them past the 300-run mark. Willey smacked three fours and as many sixes in his 42-ball 51, his second ODI fifty. Curran (54-ball 38*) too got some crucial runs down the order and ensured that England almost batted out the entire 50 overs. For Ireland, Young and Delany were the only two bowlers who conceded less than six per over.

In response, Stirling and Gareth Delany got Ireland off to a decent start by adding 50 runs for the opening wicket. Delany didn't contribute much and was dismissed by Willey for 12. Meanwhile, Stirling struggled at the start but soon broke the shackles by smashing Saqib Mahmood for two huge sixes through the on-side. The right-hander got to his fifty off 52 deliveries and got good support from skipper Balbirnie. 

Stirling did go after Adil Rashid and Moeen but he was smart with his approach. Anything under his nose, Stirling smoked through the on side. His battle against Rashid was quite intriguing. Meanwhile, Balbirnie too was scoring at a very good rate and he was doing it without playing those aerial shots. The two brought up the 100-run stand in the 24th over and the required run-rate dropped to less than seven per over. Stirling was hogging all the limelight but in the process, Balbirnie got to his fifty off 43 deliveries.

Morgan didn't take the field in the second innings after he felt tightness in his groin and it was Moeen who captained the side in his absence. Moeen tried everything but couldn't break the partnership. Stirling kept going after Moeen and Rashid and the former was forced to bring his pacers back into the attack. The opener got to his hundred off 96 deliveries and kept Ireland in the game. Even Willey was brought back into the attack but Stirling welcomed him with back-to-back boundaries and in the process, Balbirnie got past the 2000-run mark in ODIs.

Needing 112 off 90, both Stirling and Balbirnie took calculated risks and ensured that the required run-rate was always in check. The surface was hardly offering anything to the bowlers and the home team were running out of options. Stirling was dropped twice before Balbirnie got to his sixth hundred in the 42nd over. The partnership was finally broken in the same over when Stirling was run out, with Ireland still needing 63 off 48. Balbirnie too perished after completing his hundred and that gave England an opening. 

Ireland still needed 44 off 30 and O'Brien, the MVP in that Bangalore victory, announced his arrival with a six over deep mid-wicket. The equation came down to 24 off 18 and Tector was finding it difficult to get his timing right. O'Brien however did get a boundary in that over and then Tector got one four in the penultimate over, leaving eight runs for the final over. Saqib Mahmood bowled a no ball in the final over but O'Brien and Tector didn't panic and got the job done with a ball to spare.

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Curtis CampherEoin Joseph Gerard MorganAndrew BalbirnieSamuel William BillingsDavid Jonathan WilleyIreland tour of England, 2020The Rose Bowl, SouthamptonPaul Robert StirlingThomas Banton

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