England kickstarted the Men's World Cup Super League with a six-wicket victory over Ireland at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton on Thursday. David Willey and Sam Billings were the stars of a rather one-sided match, which was the first of three to take place at the same venue.
A five-wicket haul from Willey, which included a searing opening spell in which he took four wickets in his first four overs set the tone of the game, after Eoin Morgan won the toss and opted to field. The hosts featured a side which included none of the players who took part in the three-match Test series against West Indies earlier this month.
Willey opened the hosts' attack and struck on the fourth ball as Paul Stirling sent an inswinger straight down the throat of the fielder at midwicket. He then got Ireland captain Andy Balbernie off the first ball in his next over.
Saqib Mahmood then picked up next Irish wicket in his next over, dismissing Harry Tector who walked for a nine-ball duck, before Willey dismissed Gareth Delaney and Lorcan Tucker off consecutive deliveries but couldn't get his hat-trick.
Debutant Curtis Campher hung on for Ireland and managed a 51-run stand with Kevin O'Brien and later a 66-run stand with Andy McBrine to take Ireland beyond the 150-run mark. Campher took his time with getting runs though, ending the innings unbeaten on 59 off 118 balls.
Willey himself ended the Irish innings on 172, dismissing Craig Young in the 45th over.
Ireland suffered a setback in the very first over of their bowling as pacer Barry McCarthy walked off the field with an injury after bowling merely five balls. However, Ireland remained undeterred, inflicting early dismissals for England in the run-chase. Opener Jonny Bairstow was caught plumb by Craig Young in the third over of the innings and merely 15 deliveries later, Jason Roy departed after a promising start too, as he completely misread the length from Andy McBrine, being dismissed LBW on 24.
James Vince threw an impressive start - something which has become quite a feature for the batsman throughout his limited-overs career, as he was dismissed on 25. The side lost its fourth wicket in the form of Tom Banton, who was dismissed by Campher in his first over.
With score at 78/4, it was the experience of Sam Billings and captain Eoin Morgan which eventually bailed out the home side from a typically difficult position, as both stabilised the English innings.
The duo eventually remained unbeaten, with Billing scoring 67 off 54 deliveries and Morgan scoring 36. The England captain finished the run-chase with a six off Simranjit Singh.