WHEN Ireland were 28-5 half an hour into the first day-night international against England, it looked as if the second half of the day would not be needed.
But, in a positive sign for the future, this young Ireland side refused to lie down and with the help of an unbeaten half-century from Curtis Campher, they batted almost 45 overs to set the world champions a victory target of 173.
There was more encouragement when the bowlers reduced England to 78 for four but Sam Billings, with his third and highest ODI 50 and captain Eoin Morgan eased the hosts home, without a spectator in the Ageas Bowl, with more than 22 overs to spare. Inevitably, the Irishman finished the match with a six.
As expected, former captain William Porterfield was sacrificed to allow the debut of Campher but Boyd Rankin was also dropped as Ireland took all three pace bowlers mauled by the England Lions on Sunday out of the firing line.
But there was more agony for one of the replacements when Barry McCarthy, given the new ball, pulled up with a knee problem after just five balls, never to return.
Craig Young took two wickets, either side of being hit for five fours by James Vince and Campher, bowling brisk fast medium, needed only four balls to take his first wicket, as history repeated himself when he had Tom Banton caught behind, just as he did playing for South Africa in an Under-19 international in 2018.
Andy McBrine, replacing McCarthy, made the initial breakthrough, winning a successful lbw review against the dangerous Johnny Bairstow but the bowlers just did not have enough runs to play with after Ireland’s horrible early collapse.
David Willey, who finished with his first five-wicket haul in an ODI, caused the mayhem, removing Ireland’s best batsmen with his first seven balls. First Paul Stirling turned one straight to mid-wicket and then Balbirnie – was he nervous? – played a loose drive outside his off stump and edged to the keeper.
That brought Harry Tector to the middle for his debut and trying to force Sajid Mahmood through the offside to get off the mark from his ninth delivery, he played on.
At the other end, Gareth Delany took the attack to the England side, hitting five fours in 10 balls in a breezy opening, but when he cut Willey low to backward point, Lorcan Tucker was trapped in front next ball – and given out on review – to leave Ireland 28-5, the first time they had lost five wickets for less than 30 in more than 150 ODIs.
Hardly the ideal scenario for someone to come to the middle in his first game for his adopted country but Campher looked immediately at home in the sparse surroundings and with a drive through extra cover he got off the mark.
From his arrival in the middle until McBrine pulled Moeen Ali for six in the 35th over, Campher was the only one to find the boundary – even Kevin O’Brien didn’t manage it in his 36-ball stay - and when he followed Andre Botha and Morgan to become only the third Ireland batsman to reach 50 in his first ODI, he had faced 102 balls and hit four fours.
A horror attempt at a quick single from Simi Singh could only have ended in one result to leave Ireland 79-7 but McBrine, after a cautious start, happy to score his first 15 runs in singles, then broke free.
After taking 10 off a Tom Curran over, to take him into the 40s, he could not stop himself going another boundary and holed out to deep square leg.
McCarthy and Young could not see out the overs and Campher was left stranded with 32 balls unused.
The second of three ODIs starts at 2pm tomorrow.