This would have been an inconsequential match, England having already sealed the series, had it not been for CWC Super League. There were 10 points of the League still at stake. There is something about the contest amongst neighbors, that irrespective of the gap on the ranking table, their match has certain intensity- be it India-Bangladesh or Pakistan-Afghanistan or England-Ireland. For the first time in the series, we got to see a close encounter where more than 650 runs were scored in total. England riding on Eoin Morgan’s century posted a formidable total of 328 but in reply Ireland played out of their skin and chased it down on the back of twin centuries from Man of the Match Paul Stirling and Eoin’s counterpart Balbirnie. The last time, also the only time, Ireland defeated England, it was a similar score(327) that they chased down powered by Kevin O’Brien’s heroics in the 2011 World Cup at Bengaluru.
Ireland won the toss and elected to bowl and their bowlers took full advantage of initial swing on offer claiming three quick wickets. Roy poked an away swinger to second slip off Young. Bairstow was still in the same frame of mind as his last innings but an in-swinger from Adair found a way between his driving bat and pad to rattle the stumps. Vince was cut in half by Young’s delivery that took inside edge on its way to keeper’s gloves. England were 3 down for 44 when English captain Eoin Morgan joined Tom Banton in the middle.
The fall of wickets didn’t deter the English batsmen from playing aggressive cricket as they brought on 146-run partnership off only 110 balls. Morgan being the major contributor hit 15 4s, one of them- a beautiful straight drive- to bring his century off 78 balls. His innings also included 4 massive hits- 3 off them being pulled while one lofted over long-off dancing down the track. The promising youngster Banton made his career’s first half-century adorned with 6 fours and a six. They fell in quick succession. Morgan got a leading edge trying to hoick Little over mid-wicket while Banton was trapped in front of stumps by Delany. A 73-run stand down the order between Willey(51) and Curran(38) took England past 300. They were bowled out with a ball remaining for 328.
Ireland, unlike the previous two matches, had a decent start with Stirling and Delany. A 50-run opening stand was broken by Willey when Delany moved too far across leaving his leg stump unguarded. Balbirnie came next and what followed was a massive relentless partnership of 214 runs off 197 balls with both the players getting to their individual centuries. Stirling, on his way to 142(128) hit 9 boundaries and 6 big ones- pulled on the front foot, both behind and in front of square, but the best-being sweep off Willey. Balbirnie preferred groundstrokes over aerial ones and brought his century studded with 12 boundaries. An unfortunate run-out ended the partnership when Stirling trying to steal a single from point’s hand was sent back by Balbirnie only to find him short at non-strikers’ end. Balbirnie followed him back to the hut after holing out to long-off off Adil Rashid.
Ireland needed 50 off 33 with two new guys- Tector and O’Brien- in the middle. One or two tight overs could have brought England back in the game but what they offered instead were no-balls and missed catch. A waist-high no-ball from Willey was sent sailing over deep square leg by O’Brien while Banton was not quick enough to pouch a chance from Tector at long-on. A boundary an over easily took Ireland past the finishing line with a ball to spare. The series ended on the right note- a competitive affair that went down to the last over. England won the series 2-1 and the chief contributor in this series win with both bat and ball- David Willey was adjudged Man of the Series.