|First one-day international, Ageas Bowl, Southampton|
|Ireland 172 (44.4 overs): Campher 59*, Willey 5-30|
|England 174-4 (27.5 overs): Billings 67*, Morgan 36*|
|England won by six wickets|
England eased to a six-wicket win over Ireland on their return to one-day internationals at the Ageas Bowl.
Chasing just 173, and without a number of regulars who are away with the Test squad, England were stuttering at 78-4.
But Eoin Morgan and Sam Billings, who made 67 not out, shared an unbroken fifth-wicket stand of 96 to seal the victory with 22.1 overs to spare.
David Willey earlier marked his England recall by taking his first five-wicket haul in international cricket.
The left-armer, playing his first international since being left out of last year’s World Cup squad, took four wickets with the new ball and returned to take the final wicket, finishing with 5-30.
Ireland had been 28-5 at one stage and could have suffered a far heavier defeat but for an unbeaten 59 by 21-year-old debutant Curtis Campher.
The win gives England 10 points in their first game of the newly formed World Cup Super League and a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
Like the recent Test series against West Indies, these matches are being played behind closed doors in a bio-secure bubble with ODIs to follow at the same venue on Saturday and Tuesday.
Comfortable in the end for England
This was England’s first ODI on home soil since last summer’s World Cup win and many of the players’ first competitive cricket since the tour of South Africa in February.
Despite the eerie atmosphere without spectators, the bowling attack was impressive, fast bowler Saqib Mahmood catching the eye alongside Willey with 2-36, but there was evidence of rustiness at the top of the batting order.
Opener Jason Roy looked to be finding his groove in hitting three boundaries before he was trapped lbw from a straight ball for 24, as Jonny Bairstow had been earlier for two.
The nature of this summer has left England needing to pick separate Test and one-day squads and has given opportunities to James Vince and Billings – given that Test regulars Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler are unavailable.
Vince’s innings was identical to most he has played in the past for England, eye-catching but ultimately failing. He edged behind on the drive for 25.
Even with the absentees, Billings would not have played but for a late injury to Kent team-mate Joe Denly but where Vince failed, Billings grabbed his chance.
Billings has failed to fully utilise his talent in the past, but here he showed experience to see his side home with his highest ODI score.
The 29-year-old took a little time to compose himself at the crease before unleashing his trademark reverse sweeps for two of his 11 fours.
Captain Morgan was typically composed for his 40-ball 36 before hitting the winning runs with a straight six.
Willey makes his point
It is hard to argue with England’s decision to drop Willey on the eve of last summer’s World Cup but that did not make it any less brutal.
He had been a key player in the preceding years but was left out to accommodate pace bowler Jofra Archer, who went on to star in England’s triumphant campaign, having become eligible shortly before the tournament.
Willey’s second chance may not have come but for the fact that Archer, Mark Wood and Chris Woakes are all absent preparing for next week’s Test against Pakistan.
The 30-year-old admitted he considered quitting the sport after being left out of the winter white-ball squads, but began to take his second chance almost immediately.
He had Ireland opener Paul Stirling caught at short mid-wicket from the fourth ball of the match and took three more wickets in his first four overs.
His first four wickets came in his trademark style as he pushed the ball full in search of swing and found the edges of Gareth Delany and Andrew Balbirnie, and had Lorcan Tucker trapped lbw.
The fifth came when last man Craig Young skied a catch to give him a first England five-wicket haul at the 75th attempt.
He may have missed out last summer but more impressive performances could see him make England’s T20 World Cup squads for the tournaments scheduled for 2021 and 2022.
‘Disappointing’ day for Ireland
Afterwards, Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie admitted his top order showed signs of rust and described it as a “very disappointing day”.
His side tried to be aggressive but it proved to be their downfall with Balbirnie and Delany falling to wild, slashing strokes early on – the latter being dismissed after a brief cameo of 22.
The one positive in the tourists’ batting was the performance of South Africa-born Campher.
He came in at number seven but showed maturity far beyond his years with wickets falling around him.
He was measured, defended good balls and put away rare bad ones, and ensured his team at least passed their record low score of 77 which was by no means certain at one stage.
With Ireland facing a slightly weaker England XI than they may have come up against in a normal summer, they will be hoping for better in the coming games with 10 points available for a win in Super League games which determine qualification for the 2023 World Cup in India.
‘Very special to wear England shirt again’ – reaction
England captain Eoin Morgan on TMS: “David Willey always puts his heart and soul into it and his skill level today was second to none.
“For Sam Billings to come in was fantastic, we’re a little bit spoilt but to produce it when the opportunity came and when we needed it – hats off to him.”
Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie: “We didn’t assess conditions well enough. You can’t afford a start like that against a team like England. Maybe there was a touch of rust but we need to be able to assess conditions and adapt quicker.
“They bowled pretty well up front but we played pretty loosely.”
Player of the match David Willey: “The last year has been a rollercoaster. Missing out on the World Cup was obviously bitterly disappointing but to be back out here wearing an England shirt is very special.”