London - Ireland begin their first-ever one-day
international series against England in Bristol on Friday seeking to cause
their hosts fresh embarrassment.
The two-match contest, which concludes with Ireland's first
ODI at Lord's on Sunday, comes six years after their stunning World Cup win
over England in Bangalore.
Kevin O'Brien hit the fastest-ever World Cup hundred, off
just 50 balls, as Ireland won by three wickets.
That remains Ireland's only win over England in six
completed one-day internationals but O'Brien, now 33, told the Daily Mail:
"It's good to have those memories at the back of your mind.
"We'd basically lost the game at 111 for five chasing
more than 300, so I thought I'd see what would happen," added O'Brien, who
in all struck 113 off 63 balls, including 13 fours and six sixes.
Ireland's performances over several World Cups have left
them on the brink of Test status - which could be confirmed at the
International Cricket Council's annual conference in June.
If they achieve that, it means the likes of England's
Irish-born one-day captain Eoin Morgan will have far less incentive to switch
allegiance in pursuit of an international career.
But Ireland are currently struggling to live up to the teams
of the recent past that have done so much for their cricket cause.
In March they suffered chastening series losses in three
formats to fellow Test aspirants Afghanistan.
They now face an England side enjoying an ODI revival and
with genuine hope of winning next month's eight-team Champions Trophy
tournament on home soil.
Nevertheless, several of Ireland's players do have English
county experience behind them.
Tim Murtagh and Paul Stirling have played alongside Morgan
at Lord's-based Middlesex, while O'Brien and Ireland coach John Bracewell are
both familiar with Bristol thanks to their time at Gloucestershire, so the
visitors should not be daunted by their surroundings this week.
Murtagh, England-born but Ireland qualified through his
grandfather, accepted the team were in "transition".
"I've played against all the England batsmen, and I've
got them all out - and been whacked around by them," experienced paceman
Murtagh told the Irish Independent.
"We have to go in with no fear."
For England, Morgan will be making a flying visit back from
his stint in the Indian Premier League.
But Ben Stokes, who struck a blistering maiden Twenty20
hundred for the Rising Pune Supergiants on Monday, fellow all-rounder Chris
Woakes and wicket-keeper Jos Buttler will miss the Ireland matches to remain
with their respective franchises.
Morgan said Stokes's innings was an encouraging sign ahead
of the Champions Trophy.
"I think this just proves he can compete with the
best," he said.
"It makes us grow as a group, knowing we have a player
who potentially is the best in the world. That's huge."
While England will be without several first-choice players
because of the IPL, their squad does include the likes of new Test captain Joe
Root, the big-hitting Alex Hales and fast bowler Mark Wood.
Yet whoever they come up against, there is no denying the
significance of this week's matches for Ireland, particularly Sunday's fixture
at Lord's - 'the home of cricket'.
"It'll be a great honour and a special day for all in
Irish cricket," said Ireland captain William Porterfield.
"I smile when I think that both myself and Eoin
(Morgan) played for Ireland Under-13s together and here we will be captaining
both sides in a one-day international at Lord's.
"It shows just how far Irish cricket has come in a
short space of time, but we still have more to travel and offer.
"Hopefully it won't be too long until we play a Test
match at Lord's."