A 98-run partnership between Ben Foakes and Tom Curran proved the difference at Malahide on Friday as England claimed a four wicket win over a resilient Ireland side.
When play got underway two hours later than scheduled due to a damp outfield, Ireland were put into bat and captain William Porterfield along with Paul Stirling got the home side off to a solid start.
The pair were able to easily deal with the pace of English debutant Jofra Archer and it took a change of bowling for Eoin Morgan’s men to make the much-needed breakthrough when Curran had Stirling caught for 33.
A problem for Ireland tends to be that they lose wickets in quick succession and that proved to be the case again with Porterfield, Lorcan Tucker and Kevin O’Brien all back in the shed before the score reached 80.
CIYMS all-rounder Mark Adair was one of three new caps in the Irish side and he provided a spark in the middle order, crashing Curran for two massive sixes and made his way to a stylish 32 before Archer claimed his maiden international wicket with a 90mph yorker.
George Dockrell’s batting has improved massively over the past couple of years and the Leinster Lightning skipper played a pivotal role at the end of Ireland’s innings, contributing 24 alongside the tail.
When Josh Little was Curran’s third victim of the afternoon, Ireland were all out for 198 and the world’s number one ranked team would have been confident of easily chasing it down.
Little would be back in the action in a big way with the ball in his first ODI, claiming the key wicket of James Vince for 18 after a glorious catch at mid-wicket from Dockrell.
Things would get even better for Ireland when Test captain Joe Root was trapped LBW by Tim Murtagh before Little claimed the prize scalp of Morgan for 0 with a inch-perfect bouncer which carried through to wicketkeeper Gary Wilson, who was earning his 100th international cap.
That combination would come together again a few overs later to dismiss Dawid Malan for 24 and leave England 62/4, giving Ireland hope of pulling off just their second ever ODI victory over their neighbours.
Little was bowling with intent and caused the English batsmen all sorts of problems, with Curran in particular struggling at the beginning of his innings against the Pembroke bowler’s fiery bouncers and finished with figures of 4-45.
Surrey’s Foakes, who had earlier produced a shrewd piece of keeping to get rid of Andrew Balbirnie, gave the English selectors a timely reminder of his abilities by finishing 61* while Curran ended 47*.
Ireland will regret not reviewing a LBW appeal off the bowling of Murtagh earlier in Foakes’ innings which would have resulted in his dismissal and could have changed the match’s course, but it was another showing of how competitive Graham Ford’s side can be with the best teams.
The Men in Green are back in action on Sunday when they take on West Indies in an ODI at Clontarf before facing Bangladesh on Thursday at Malahide.