4th over: Ireland 20-2 (Delany 14, Tector 0) The day’s first boundary comes off the edge of Delany’s bat, which flies wide of a diving second slip. The second comes next ball, which is dispatched over square leg, and the next ball brings another, driven through the covers!
WICKET! Balbirnie c Bairstow b Willey 3 (Ireland 7-2)
Edged and gone! Willey angles the ball across the batsman, who attempts a drive but feathers a nick.
2nd over: Ireland 7-1 (Balbirnie 3, Delany 1) Saqib Mahmood slings down a set. One bonus ball from a delivery that slides down leg, and a single for each batsman. It is such a glorious day to be at the cricket, which only makes the whole no-spectator thing a bit more painful.
1st over: Ireland 4-1 (Balbirnie 2, Delany 0) Stirling only has four balls at the crease, and in that period completely fluffs two shots. The first skews off his bat, along the ground and through midwicket for a couple, the second floats straight to the England captain.
“‘England currently have international cricket scheduled on 21 of the next 33 days’,” quotes Craig Keeley. “That is possibly the most beautiful sentence ever uttered in the English language.”
WICKET! Stirling c Morgan b Willey 2 (Ireland 2-1)
Paul Stirling miscues a shot straight to Morgan at midwicket, who takes the easiest of catches!
The bell has been rung. The ball is in the hands of David Willey. Let’s watch cricket!
The players are ready to take the field, and action is but a couple of minutes away.
“This England team looks a bowler short,” writes Kevin Longshore. “Who would be the sixth bowler if need be?” I’ve no idea, it looks a bowler short to me. James Vince is an occasional bowler?
“I’m very excited. And, generally, as an Ireland fan it’s best to get the excitement in early, as we saw in the test last year. Before the start is often even better,” says Michael Keane. “Presumably Ireland could play their home games against England in Bready and Stormont so there’s no quarantining required? Ditto if they play Scotland. Are Scotland in it? Why not a lockdown tri-series!!! I’m over excited now.”
Scotland are not in it – it’s the 12 Test-playing nations plus the Netherlands. Scotland will get a chance to qualify for the 2023 World Cup in a final 10-team qualifying competition sometime in 2022, which will include the bottom five nations from the Super League and from which two teams will qualify.
Apparently it’s national cheesecake day. I know it’s not strictly relevant, but I thought you might want to know.
The coin has been tossed, and Eoin Morgan has chosen to bowl. Andrew Balbirnie says he would have chosen to bat anyway.
Morgan says Jo Denly came down with an unspecified injury in training yesterday, and he and Reece Topley are both out of the team. Someone else is also out of the team, but Morgan’s microphone keeps failing so we don’t get to hear who it is.
“Points for rain? Could Ireland play all their games at home please?” they will play half of them there, so that’s a start. There’ll be no rain points today, mind – it’s absolutely glorious in Southampton.
Sorry about the radio silence, Sky have been reshowing last year’s World Cup final (again) and it just never gets less compelling.
After the famine, the feast. England’s Test series against West Indies only ended a couple of days ago and now the blink-and-you-miss-it ODI series against Ireland gets under way. It’ll all be over in three games and five days, leaving about 12 hours before the next Test series against Pakistan kicks off, at the end of which there’ll be three T20s, the entire business coming to an end in one month and two days. England currently have international cricket scheduled on 21 of the next 33 days. If rain holds off and all the Tests go long, there could be international cricket played in England in a little over 20% of all hours between now and September.
Listen, I’m not complaining. Cricket beats no cricket, and this series is actually meaningful, being as it is the start of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Super League™, which is an extra-long, mildly complex qualifying competition for the 2023 World Cup. Ten points for a win, five for a tie/no result/abandonment (yes, you get points for it raining), none for a defeat, tot it all up in a couple of years (see the ICC’s Q&A here).
Here’s Vic Marks’s match preview:
It is now established that Test cricket works better than most expected behind closed doors. On Thursday there is the opportunity to gauge whether the white-ball game, usually a much noisier one, can produce a worthwhile spectacle.
At the Ageas Bowl, England play the first of three 50-over matches against Ireland in their first outing on home turf since winning the World Cup, so they have to step out without fanfare. Not that the captain, Eoin Morgan, seems too bothered by that. “Given the context of the last five months, I’m just delighted that we’re back playing again and that we have cricket back on TV. I’m extremely grateful to Ireland for agreeing to play.”