Wil­ley de­liv­ers

➤ Re­called seamer takes five wick­ets in England romp

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sports Newspaper Of The Year - Cricket By Tim Wig­more at the Ageas Bowl

Eoin Mor­gan had de­clared the start of England’s World Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tion cam­paign as be­ing a new jour­ney. But, for all the ex­cite­ment about England’s young white-ball bri­gade, it fell to two play­ers who nar­rowly missed the World Cup tri­umph to en­sure a serene start on the road to In­dia 2023 with a sixwicket win over Ire­land.

Sam Billings and David Wil­ley both made their England de­buts im­me­di­ately af­ter the 2015 World Cup, and were in­volved for the full four-year cy­cle – al­beit more as a squad mem­ber, in Billings’s case – with­out mak­ing the fi­nal World Cup cut. Nei­ther were se­lected for England’s one-day in­ter­na­tion­als in South Africa this year, but the unique cir­cum­stances of this sum­mer af­forded both the op­por­tu­nity of ODI re­calls.

Both marked the oc­ca­sion with ca­reer-best hauls – Wil­ley tak­ing five for 30 with the ball be­fore Billings hit an un­de­feated 67 – to sug­gest that England’s new jour­ney will still have time for more ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers who have been on the fringes.

Wil­ley played 46 ODIs be­tween the 2015 and the 2019 World Cup, from the first game of the cy­cle to the very last, only 11 days be­fore the World Cup opener. By this point, Wil­ley had a prob­lem: Jofra Archer had qual­i­fied for England. Af­ter be­ing in­cluded in the pro­vi­sional World Cup squad, Wil­ley was omit­ted from the fi­nal 15. He has de­scribed the time since as the tough­est of his ca­reer, be­liev­ing his in­ter­na­tional ca­reer was over. Af­ter the tu­mult of miss­ing the World Cup, Wil­ley brought a new at­ti­tude to his re­turn.

“It was just spe­cial to be play­ing for England again,” he said. “My main pri­or­ity was to en­joy it.” Tak­ing only four balls to end a 14-month wait for an in­ter­na­tional wicket, when Paul Stir­ling flicked an in­swinger to mid­wicket, cer­tainly helped in that re­gard. Wil­ley’s great gift to any lim­ited-overs side is his pen­chant for swing: with an ag­gres­sive, full length, he gen­er­ates more swing than any of England’s new-ball bowlers.

Like Stir­ling, Andy Bal­birnie, Ire­land’s skip­per, would not re­flect on his dis­missal – driv­ing loosely at the start of his sev­enth over – with any fond­ness. When Wil­ley snared the en­ter­pris­ing Gareth De­lany, caught at point, and then Lor­can Tucker lbw first ball, Wil­ley was on a hat­trick and Ire­land were 28 for five.

There was, as Bal­birnie later re­flected, no com­ing back from such an ab­ject start. In their eager­ness to at­tack the new ball, there was a sense that Ire­land mis­read con­di­tions, with this wicket less con­ducive to tim­ing the ball than the norm at the Ageas Bowl.

So, in the cir­cum­stances, Ire­land would have been re­lieved to sal­vage an­other 144 for their last five wick­ets, haul­ing them­selves up to 172. That they did so owed largely to a man who has never played a game of cricket in Ire­land. Cur­tis Cam­pher played for South Africa Un­der19s in England two years ago, but qual­i­fied for Ire­land through his grand­mother, join­ing the Ire­land set-up when he im­pressed for Ire­land Wolves – the na­tional sec­ond string – against Namibia in Fe­bru­ary. Cam­pher had al­ready de­cided to forge a ca­reer in Ire­land and, with a Cricket Ire­land devel­op­ment con­tract, moved to Dublin be­fore Covid-19 pre­vented him from play­ing in do­mes­tic cricket.

Bal­birnie and Gra­ham Ford, the head coach, had still seen enough to in­clude Cam­pher in Ire­land’s squad, and in­jury to Mark Adair af­forded Cam­pher an op­por­tu­nity as seam-bowl­ing all-rounder. En­ter­ing at 28 for five, with Wil­ley on a hat-trick, qual­i­fied as about the most in­op­por­tune mo­ment to bat for the first time in ODI cricket, but Cam­pher im­me­di­ately marked him­self out as a crick­eter of steel and skill, ac­cu­mu­lat­ing sen­si­bly and com­ing through a try­ing pe­riod against Adil Rashid’s leg-spin.

While Cam­pher’s half-cen­tury com­prised 103 balls, with­out it Ire­land’s to­tal would have been in two fig­ures, not helped by Simi Singh’s bizarre run-out. Af­ter hit­ting into the off side, Singh hared down the wicket, re­sem­bling a player on Brian Lara Cricket who had ac­ci­den­tally pressed the con­troller to run.

Cam­pher ac­tu­ally con­sid­ers him­self a bowl­ing all-rounder and, in a neat twist of fate, re­peated his dis­missal of Tom Ban­ton two years ago for South Africa Un­der-19s; Ban­ton tried to pull, but was de­feated by ex­tra bounce.

At that point, England were 78 for four, with Ire­land zesty in the field de­spite Barry Mc­Carthy suf­fer­ing a knee in­jury in his first over. But then Mor­gan cut his first ball for four as if to end the fan­tasy that Ire­land could de­fend such a mea­gre to­tal. Mor­gan had shuf­fled him­self down to six to give England’s new mid­dle or­der – play­ing in lieu of Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Jos But­tler – an op­por­tu­nity.

It was one that nei­ther Ban­ton nor James Vince grasped. In­deed, Vince’s 25 was an in­nings brim­ming with re­splen­dent drives and ef­fort­less tim­ing that was only want­ing for runs. Its end­ing was quintessen­tially Vince, too, ter­mi­nated by an

airy drive to a de­liv­ery that moved off the seam from Craig Young.

Joe Denly had been due to play un­til be­ing ruled out with a back in­jury, which af­forded Billings his chance at num­ber five. Quick to seize on any­thing short of a length with his strong pull, and char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally in­ven­tive against spin, Billings showed why he still fig­ures promi­nently in England’s thoughts.

Billings’s sparkling con­tri­bu­tion en­sured that England could cruise to vic­tory long be­fore the flood­lights had any use.

Mor­gan sealed it with a six to con­tinue his fine record against his for­mer side. If this was not quite the grand home­com­ing England may have en­vis­aged in their first home ODI as reign­ing World Cup cham­pi­ons, it sug­gested a side with the depth to with­stand the many chal­lenges that lie ahead.

Five alive: David Wil­ley, who had not played for England since just be­fore last year’s World Cup, re­turned to the in­ter­na­tional arena with im­pres­sive fig­ures of five for 30 in yes­ter­day’s six-wicket de­feat of Ire­land in the first one-day in­ter­na­tional at Southamp­ton

Call to arms: David Wil­ley cel­e­brates tak­ing the wicket of Ire­land opener Paul Stir­ling

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