Skipper Eoin Morgan proudly proclaimed this week that the current England squad is the most talented group of players he’s ever worked with. But talk is cheap and England have got form when it comes to ODI disasters. Among their many 50-over aberrations was their shock three-wicket defeat to Ireland at the 2011 World Cup in Bangalore. Should there be a repeat of that humiliating defeat in Bristol this Friday – the first ODI of the summer – Morgan will have wished he’d kept schtum.
That famous win six years ago is he only time Ireland have beaten the English in seven attempts since the first meeting back in 2006, and with Morgan’s boys ranked fifth in the current ICC ODI rankings compared to 12th for Ireland, the sun really should shine on the home side at The Brightside Ground.
England will be without the trio of Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler, all of whom are currently bolstering their bank balances in the IPL. But they do welcome back big-hitting Morgan, Jason Roy and Sam Billings from the subcontinent, and are massive 1/10 favourites to live up to Morgan’s glowing praise.
The battle to be the leading batsman in Bristol is an intriguing one given the number of potential match-winners in the England line-up. New Test skipper Joe Root top scored in the recent three-match ODI series against the West Indies with 195 runs and is 9/4 to lead the way for the home side in Bristol. But the in-form over hitter in the squad is fellow Yorkshireman Jonny Bairstow, a 9/1 bet, who is fresh from smashing a brutal 174 for his county against Durham on Wednesday. Morgan is rated at 9/2 to top score while Roy is 5/2 to sparkle at the top of the England order.
The vastly-experienced Ed Joyce, once an England ODI player himself, is tipped to be the leading run scorer for Ireland,. The 38-year-old is no spring chicken but has five ODI centuries to his name and, along with team-mate William Porterfield, is 13/4 to top score.
Kevin O’Brien was the Ireland hero back in 2011 when he bludgeoned an incredible 113 from just 63 balls to help his team chase down an improbable 327 for victory. He’s 11/2 to star with the bat against the same opposition.
The England attack has been boosted by the return of Durham fast bowler Mark Wood, who returns after a long-term injury. He’s 7/2 to be the team’s top wicket-taker on Friday. He is, though, only one of four bowlers at that price. The Yorkshire trio of Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett and David Willey are also rated 7/2 to make significant inroads into the Ireland batting line-up. Of the four, Plunkett is the in-form ODI bowler after taking a series-best 10 wickets against the West Indies in March.
Ireland’s attack is tipped to be spearheaded by 24-year-old seamer Barry McCarthy. The Durham player has only played eight ODIs but has taken 18 wickets in the process. He is 3/1 to top the Irish charts on Friday.