England begin their preparations for the ICC Champions Trophy next month with a two-match series against Ireland.
The Three Lions have had two months away from the spotlight as the Indian Premier and county game have taken centre stage, but they will now build up their form in the hope of delivering success at the tournament on home soil.
Eoin Morgan’s men defeated the West Indies 3-0 in their last one-day series after being beaten by India at the beginning of the year. Ireland will pose a test of the England team, with their line-up featuring a few familiar faces from the county circuit.
Ireland produced the shock result of the 2011 World Cup by defeating Andrew Strauss’s England thanks to a brilliant century from Kevin O’Brien.
In their one recorded result since, the Three Lions bounced back with a comfortable victory in 2013.
Morgan will relished playing against his former team-mates with a century last time out and he will be determined to lead England to another triumph over his home country.
We’ll now break down the first match of the series, which begins on Friday in Bristol, and looks at the best betting odds from the all the markets available.
England’s batting has been extremely impressive since their disastrous campaign in the 2015 World Cup. With the right conditions the Three Lions are always a threat to get above 350 and they will be targeting a high score should they bat first in the contest.
In his last outing Alex Hales returned to the fold with a point to prove having been ruled out of the opening two matches of the series against the West Indies due to injury. He did not disappoint his team as he blasted a century against the West Indies – his fifth in ODI cricket.
His big-hitting ability has turned him into one of the most devastating batsmen in world cricket and he proved just that last year by breaking Robin Smith’s all-time record to notch England’s highest limited-overs individual score.
The Three Lions will be expecting him to dominate in the ICC Champions Trophy – therefore it’s important for the 28-year-old to get into prime form ahead of the tournament. Ireland’s attack includes Middlesex’s Tim Murtagh, but other than his experience they are fairly pedestrian. Expect Hales to cash in and go for a big score in Bristol.
Pending selection Jonny Bairstow could be an interesting option to take following his incredible knock in the Royal London Cup for Yorkshire. The 27-year-old blasted a career-best 174 to guide his side to victory over Durham, giving the selectors a nudge before the tournament.
However, Hales has the best opportunity to rack up the runs for the Three Lions and at odds of +400 with SkyBet he represents good value for a punt.
Due to the change in approach of teams in one-day cricket – the job of bowlers has become more difficult. England have put faith in younger bowlers since the World Cup, moving away from James Anderson and Stuart Broad to allow them to focus solely on Test matches.
Chris Woakes has taken over the mantle as the Three Lions senior bowler, although his exploits in the IPL will see him miss the series against Ireland. Ben Stokes is also absent, leaving England short of options in their pace attack.
The return from injury of David Willey alleviates the strain. The Yorkshire all-rounder missed the series against the West Indies, but should return to the team to open the bowling. He has become an important player for Morgan’s men with his left-arm pace offering a different angle of approach from the team’s plethora of right-arm bowlers.
He has become a consistent performer at the highest level and has a decent average in the early 30s. The 27-year-old has offered control at the top of the innings as well as the ability to swing the ball. In favourable conditions he could rip into the Irish batting line-up and pick up early wickets to put them on the back foot.
With Stokes and Woakes away on IPL duty – Steven Finn has been handed a chance to impress against Ireland. The 28-year-old was left out of the Champions Trophy squad due to his inconsistent form – which has plagued his England career.
Should he earn a starting berth he will need to have a strong outing to prove his worth and therefore could be the option to lead the wicket column. However, the best bet is to back Willey to be England’s top bowler at +350 with Bet365.
Ireland have talent in their squad with captain William Porterfield a more than capable batsman at the top of the innings, supported by former England opener Ed Joyce.
Kevin O’Brien remains in the side and he will have not forgotten how he smashed around the Three Lions’ attack in 2011 in Bangalore to drive his side to a famous victory.
Ireland’s batting line-up will need to have a good outing as their bowling unit looks fairly weak, with Murtagh leading their attack. These days he’s military medium at best and could provide target practice for England’s top order.
That being said – conditions may favour seam bowlers especially at this early juncture in the season. Cloud cover and a seaming wicket could hinder the Three Lions attacking play and make the contest a low-scoring affair, which could bring the Irish into the match.
However, even then England have too much quality in their line-up for an upset to take place. Expect Morgan’s men to claim victory by a comfortable margin in order to get themselves into form ahead of the tournament in just four weeks time.
The only sensible option to take is an England win – with the best odds coming with William Hill at -800 .
Alex Hales To Top Score In The Match
May 5th 2017
David Willey To Be England’s Leading Wicket Taker
May 5th 2017
England To Defeat Ireland
May 5th 2017