CURTIS CAMPHER made an impressive start to his international career with a battling half-century at the Ageas Bowl and followed up with a wicket but it wasn’t a winning ODI debut as England swept Ireland aside by six wickets in Southampton.
The bare stats of his 59 not out from 118 balls, with four boundaries, do not tell the full story of an innings rich in promise from the South African-born right-hander who already looks likely to fill the batting all-rounder role for the next decade, despite never having played in Ireland.
It was easy to see why Ireland coach Graham Ford was so keen to sign up his countryman on an Emerging Player contract in the hope he can fill a role that has been largely vacant since the retirement of Alex Cusack in 2015.
Campher found good support late on from Andy McBrine to lift Ireland to a total of 172 all out, but that was never likely to test England and the world champions eased to a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three World Cup Super League series, with 22.1 overs to spare.
When Campher discovered he was eligible to play for the Boys in Green, via a grandmother from Derry, he probably didn’t imagine walking to the crease for the first time to face a hat-trick ball in the seventh over, with 28-5 on the board.
The 21-year-old seemed unfazed though, he met his first delivery from David Willey with a solid defensive shot and quickly showed he had the temperament to go with a busy, compact style.
Kevin O’Brien helped the new boy add 51 for the sixth wicket but then lofted a soft catch to wide long off to depart for 22 and Ireland were back in deep trouble four balls later when Simi Singh was run out looking to get off the mark.
Campher battled on and added 66 with McBrine who lifted the one six of the innings over mid-wicket, and added three fours in a lively 40 from 48 balls, before he too fell to a loose shot when he could and should have stayed to see his side past 200.
In their first international since January, the Ireland top order were blown away by an opening burst from Willey, as Paul Stirling chipped lamely to mid-wicket in the first over and skipper Andy Balbirnie was caught behind, chasing a wide one.
Harry Tector, the other Ireland ODI debutant, chopped on to Saq Mahmood at the other end before left-armer Willey removed Gareth Delany for 22 and pinned Lorcan Tucker lbw for a golden duck on his way to figures of 5-30.
Ireland need to re-group quickly for tomorrow’s (SAT) second match and will probably stick with the same batting line-up, which will mean no early return for former captain William Porterfield who was dropped for the first time in 14 years.