By Gerard Mulreaney (@gerardmulreaney)
Some in the media were billing this game as the Jofra Archer show, however in the end it turned into the Josh Little show. The game may ultimately have ended in defeat, but Irish supporters will have been heartened by the performance of the Pembroke bowler.
Archer was being hailed as the next big thing in English cricket, with the ECB changing their own eligibility rules to allow him contend for a place in their World Cup squad. However, Ireland opener Paul Stirling didn’t waste any time in welcoming the Barbados-born fast bowler to International cricket, as he sent his first ball over the ropes for four.
In Archer’s first bowling spell he went for 21 runs off his 4 overs, nothing too spectacular. He did however pick up the wicket of fellow debutant Mark Adair, who came to the crease to replace the rather unfortunate Andrew Balbinie, stumped by Ben Foakes. Whether Balbirnie’s dismissal was in the spirit of the game is an argument for another day.
Journalist David Townsend of the Irish Independent summed Balbirnie’s dismissal perfectly;
‘Balbirnie attempted to sweep a wide, missed, and watched as wicketkeeper Foakes held the ball to the leg stump. With the batsman’s foot firmly planted behind the line there was no chance of a stumping and that phase of play should have been over.
Instead Foakes waited until Balbirnie had turned away and raised his toe, then whipped off the bails. The laws of the game said ‘Out’ but a fight would have ensued had a club keeper tried the same thing on a weekend afternoon.’
Adair looked in good nick with the bat, hitting two 4’s and two huge 6’s – in three balls off the bowling of Tom Curran, in a quick-fire 32 from just 30 balls. But in the 33rd over Archer clean-bowled him, taking out the off-stump in the process. Archer finished with bowling figures of 1-40 off his 8 overs.
Josh Little got off to a similar start to Archer, as his first ball was also sent for a boundary, this time by James Vince. Little however extracted his revenge on Vince in the 8th over, thanks in no small part to some brilliant fielding by George Dockrell at mid-wicket, diving to his left for his his 100th catch, as Little claimed his maiden ODI wicket.
He followed that up in his next over, as he took the prized wicket of Dubliner, and England captain Eoin Morgan. Morgan had only just come to the crease following Joe Root’s dismissal, and three balls later he was trudging straight back to the pavilion. A superb bouncing delivery caught Morgan cold and he knicked it straight at the wicket-keeper Wilson.
The wicket of Dawid Malan followed in the 14th over, another bouncer from Little, as an outside edge was caught by Wilson behind the stumps. He got his 4-for by taking the wicket of David Willey, a full-length delivery doe the leg side that Wiley hit straight to Adair at fine leg. Little finished with bowling figures of 4-45 from his 8 overs.
While England eventually won the game by four wickets, it was a marvellous performance by the 19 year-old. Coming into such a big game, at such a young age in front of a home crowd, albeit a relatively disappointing one of just over 3,000, he showed no nerves. His captain William Porterfield called Little ‘fearless’ in the after-match press conference
Porterfield said of Little, “We knew he’s a talented kid. He can bowl, and he can get a bat in there. He’s a left-armer, there’s not many of them knocking around. He’s a very talented boy, quite natural, he’s just got to keep working and keep progressing his game. It’s been a fantastic start for both Josh and Mark Adair, they didn’t look out of place. It’s credit to them, the character they have, and if you said they’d played 30-40 games you believe it.”
Now, if only Ireland can sort out the batting!