MALAHIDE: Eoin Morgan came home to Malahide and scored a match-winning hundred as England eased to a six-wicket victory over Ireland in the one-off, one-day international on Tuesday.
On the ground where he once played senior cricket in front of a handful of spectators as a 13-year-old, the Irishman took centre stage with almost 10,000 people watching to finish 124 not out, winning the match with his fourth six.
England captain Morgan, leading the side in the absence of the rested Alastair Cook, shared a world record fifth-wicket ODI partnership of 226 with Ravi Bopara, who deservedly reached his century before England chased down their victory target of 270 with an almost ridiculous seven overs to spare.
Morgan's sixth ODI century (five for England and one for Ireland), made seven days short of his 27th birthday, saw him face 106 balls in total during his innings, with eight fours and four sixes.
Bopara's run-rate was even faster, the all-rounder facing 75 balls in all and hitting 15 boundaries, five of them clearing the fence as England enjoyed a morale-boosting win ahead of the five-match ODI series against Australia starting on Friday.
“Today has been magnificent to get time in the middle, runs under my belt and to contribute to an England win,” Morgan told Sky Sports 2. “Time in the middle as a batsman is crucial going into big series. “I was more nervous in the changing-room than I was in the middle.”
“The wicket was tough and challenging. It was a challenge with ball and bat.” Morgan wasn't the only Irishman in English red on Tuesday.
Boyd Rankin, after 38 ODIs for Ireland, was given his debut and was England's most successful bowler, taking four wickets for 46 runs as Ireland were restricted to 269 for seven.
Ireland captain William Porterfield dominated that innings, scoring 112 – his 10th century for Ireland but his first in an ODI for three years since his 115 against Bangladesh at Stormont, still Ireland's only victory over a Full Member or Test nation on home soil.
“It was nice to get a hundred, but a shame it was in a losing side,” said Porterfield, who denied this loss hurt more than most because of the key roles played by two former team-mates in Morgan and Rankin. “It doesn't matter who gets them against you,” he said.
“We were pretty confident on that wicket at halfway and then after the start we got (with the ball). But we can't take anything away from Morgy and Ravi.” For the second match in row, Porterfield was let down by Ireland's bowlers.
In May, Pakistan were 133 for seven, chasing 240, and they won by two wickets; on Tuesday thanks to Tim Murtagh's impressive opening spell, Bopara came to the middle with England struggling on 48 for four.
It was to be another 204 runs before Ireland got another chance – and Niall O'Brien, on the deep mid-wicket boundary, spilled it. Five balls later, the match was over.
Rankin was one of three England debutants but it was not such a good day for the other two.
Gary Ballance was out for a second-ball duck – although he did hold the catch to dismiss the dangerous Paul Stirling for 10.
Meanwhile Michael Carberry put down two catches, including Porterfield on 85, bowled one over which cost 12 runs and was then the first England wicket to fall, in veteran Trent Johnston's second over, for 10.
Earlier, Rankin – who like Morgan has switched allegiance in a bid to play Test cricket, something as yet unavailable to Ireland – dismissed Stirling and Ed Joyce in quick succession.
And when Kevin O'Brien, whose dashing century saw Ireland to a stunning win over England at the 2011 World Cup in Bangalore, was brilliantly held by Morgan at mid-wicket, the hosts were in trouble at 161 for five.
But Porterfield brought up his hundred with a huge six, off Rankin, before he was bowled by his old Ireland colleague.