PAUL STIRLING and skipper Andy Balbirnie rightly received the plaudits for their magnificent centuries that spurred Ireland to a seven-wicket victory over England on Tuesday evening but Harry Tector’s winning cameo may be seen as equally important in the long term.
The former U19 captain was under intense pressure when the two centurions departed but a cool head in only his third ODI innings, and the experience of Kevin O’Brien at the other end, saw the job done and the first World Cup Super League points on the board with a ball to spare.
Tector, one of three talented brothers who play for YMCA, has established himself in the middle order in T20 internationals yet it was still a surprise when the Ireland selectors preferred him to former skipper William Porterfield for the ODI series against England in Southampton.
(The Tector brothers: Pic Rodney Smythe)
After falling for a duck on debut and then getting out for 28 in the second game, it would have been easy for the 20-year-old to have misjudged his innings on Tuesday, either going too hard too early or using up precious deliveries as the run-rate nudged over nine.
As it was, Tector paced it to perfection, scoring 29 not out off 26 balls, in an unbeaten 50-run partnership for the fourth wicket in only 5.3 overs that ensured England skipper Eoin Morgan lost to his former team for the first time, despite making a century himself.
“I was actually pretty calm waiting to bat,” Tector said.
“The lads were having a bit of banter in the changing room and I was just preparing myself to come in and score at whatever the required rate was.
“The four I hit off Rashid after ‘Bal’ got out took a lot of pressure off. It was probably my best shot of the innings and got the partnership with Kev off to a fast start. It also settled me a bit.
“Batting with Kev was a massive help because he was just so calm, and told me to keep backing my strong shots. Once I faced that no ball in the last over from Saq Mahmood I knew with that with three of four needed we were probably going to get over the line.
“We had a great night after, as you can imagine, just chilling out, having a few beers, a bit of a song and a laugh. That’s what it’s all about really.”
Tector will be a better player for the experience and looks a middle order fixture for years to come, and with fellow newbie Curtis Campher also nailing down a place, Mark Adair apparently back in favour, and both Lorcan Tucker and Josh Little impressing too, the future looks rosy.
(Harry Tector: Pic by Joe Curtis)
One man at the other end of his international career is Kevin O’Brien, who plans to retire after the 2023 World Cup, yet he was again instrumental in defeating England, as he was in that famous first victory nearly 10 years ago in Bangalore.
And O’Brien’s trip down memory lane didn’t stop there because with Eoin Morgan also scoring a century at the Ageas Bowl, some commentators were wondering if three batsmen born in the same country had ever made ODI hundreds in the same game before.
While the answer was ‘No’, three ODI centuries on the same day is not unique: O’Brien and Porterfield reached three figures against Kenya in Nairobi back in February 2007, a few hours after Ed Joyce had scored his only hundred for England in Sydney.
On that day, however, Ireland lost and England won.