Ireland out to stun England again

Ireland begin their first-ever one-day international series against England in Bristol on Friday seeking to cause their hosts fresh embarrassment.

The two-match contest, which concludes with Ireland’s first ODI at Lord’s on Sunday, comes six years after their stunning World Cup win over England in Bangalore.

Kevin O’Brien hit the fastest-ever World Cup hundred, off just 50 balls, as Ireland won by three wickets.

That remains Ireland’s only win over England in six completed one-day internationals but O’Brien, now 33, told the Daily Mail: “It’s good to have those memories at the back of your mind.

“We’d basically lost the game at 111 for five chasing more than 300, so I thought I’d see what would happen,” added O’Brien, who in all struck 113 off 63 balls, including 13 fours and six sixes.

Ireland’s performances over several World Cups have left them on the brink of Test status — which could be confirmed at the International Cricket Council’s annual conference in June.

If they achieve that, it means the likes of England’s Irish-born one-day captain Eoin Morgan will have far less incentive to switch allegiance in pursuit of an international career.

But Ireland are currently struggling to live up to the teams of the recent past that have done so much for their cricket cause.

In March they suffered chastening series losses in three formats to fellow Test aspirants Afghanistan.

They now face an England side enjoying an ODI revival and with genuine hope of winning next month’s eight-team Champions Trophy tournament on home soil.

Nevertheless, several of Ireland’s players do have English county experience behind them.

Tim Murtagh and Paul Stirling have played alongside Morgan at Lord’s-based Middlesex, while O’Brien and Ireland coach John Bracewell are both familiar with Bristol thanks to their time at Gloucestershire, so the visitors should not be daunted by their surroundings this week.

Murtagh, England-born but Ireland qualified through his grandfather, accepted the team were in “transition”.

“I’ve played against all the England batsmen, and I’ve got them all out -– and been whacked around by them,” experienced paceman Murtagh told the Irish Independent.

“We have to go in with no fear.”

For England, Morgan will be making a flying visit back from his stint in the Indian Premier League.

But Ben Stokes, who struck a blistering maiden Twenty20 hundred for the Rising Pune Supergiants on Monday, fellow all-rounder Chris Woakes and wicket-keeper Jos Buttler will miss the Ireland matches to remain with their respective franchises.

Morgan said Stokes’s innings was an encouraging sign ahead of the Champions Trophy.

“I think this just proves he can compete with the best,” he said.

“It makes us grow as a group, knowing we have a player who potentially is the best in the world. That’s huge.”

While England will be without several first-choice players because of the IPL, their squad does include the likes of new Test captain Joe Root, the big-hitting Alex Hales and fast bowler Mark Wood.

Yet whoever they come up against, there is no denying the significance of this week’s matches for Ireland, particularly Sunday’s fixture at Lord’s – ‘the home of cricket’.

“It’ll be a great honour and a special day for all in Irish cricket,” said Ireland captain William Porterfield.

“I smile when I think that both myself and Eoin (Morgan) played for Ireland Under-13s together and here we will be captaining both sides in a one-day international at Lord’s.

“It shows just how far Irish cricket has come in a short space of time, but we still have more to travel and offer.

“Hopefully it won’t be too long until we play a Test match at Lord’s.”