Ben Foakes’ unbeaten 61 on his debut helped England recover from a top-order collapse to beat Ireland by four wickets in a lone one-day international in Dublin on Friday.
England, the world’s top-ranked side in ODI cricket and the hosts of the 50-over World Cup starting later this month, collapsed to 66 for five chasing a modest 199 for victory.
They were still in trouble in a match at Malahide reduced to 45 overs per side by a wet outfield when teenage debutant left-arm quick Josh Little took his fourth wicket.
England were now 101 for six against an Ireland side who have not qualified for the World Cup.
But wicket-keeper Foakes and Surrey team-mate Tom Curran (47 not out) saw then shared an unbroken stand of 98 as England won with 18 balls to spare.
Victory in their opening match of the season saw England avoid the embarrassment of a fresh defeat by a side controversially excluded from an upcoming World Cup now reduced to 10 teams following their shock loss away to Scotland last year.
And for Ireland this result meant they did not enjoy another win over England to set alongside their triumph at the 2011 World Cup
– ‘Found a way to win’ –
“I thought the bowlers did a great job and three or four of us batted really poorly,” England captain Eoin Morgan told Sky Sports.
“But I thought Ben Foakes was absolutely outstanding on his debut.
“His and Tom Curran’s partnership really did get us over the line.
“And I think that’s brilliant, we went to Scotland last year and played brilliantly but got beaten. Today we found a way to win which is nice.”
Foakes’ 76-ball innings, featuring three fours and a six, saw him named man-of-the-match.
It was another composed display by the 26-year-old, who made 107 on Test debut, away to Sri Lanka in November.
Foakes, however, survived a close lbw appeal from veteran Middlesex paceman Tim Murtagh on 37, with Ireland opting against a review that might have gone their way.
Ireland captain William Porterfield, while disappointed by his side’s total, was heartened by the form of Little, one of three debutants in each side.
“Josh Little, with the potential he has, to just settle in there and not look out of place is all credit to him,” he said.
England were without two experienced top-order batsmen in the injured Jason Roy and the axed Alex Hales, sent into international exile after reportedly failing a second test for recreational drug use.
James Vince and Dawid Malan, two of the batsmen looking to replace Hales in England’s World Cup squad, opened the innings.
When Vince (18) pulled Little to mid-wicket, England were 34 for one.
New batsman Joe Root was soon out for seven, the England Test captain falling lbw to Murtagh.
Little struck again when he dismissed Eoin Morgan for a duck after the Dublin-born batsman could only fend a superb bouncer to Gary Wilson.
Wicket-keeper Wilson, in his 100th ODI, then held an even better catch — a diving one-handed grab high to his left — as Malan (24) slashed at Little, who finished with fine figures of four for 45.
Earlier, Liam Plunkett took four for 35 in an Ireland innings where paceman Jofra Archer marked his England debut with a wicket.
Barbados-born Archer, whose first ball in international cricket was hit for four by Paul Stirling, produced a 90 mph yorker to bowl Mark Adair.
“Jof started really well, it’s always difficult to tell on debut, they are always a bit of a write off, get yourself into international cricket and see how you go,” said Morgan.
Porterfield and Stirling put on 55 for the first wicket.
But when Archer held a diving catch at mid-on off Curran to dismiss Stirling for 33, it was the start of a slump that saw Ireland decline to 77 for four.
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