Two Irishmen have been captain of England in international cricket. The feeling is that Eoin Morgan may well prove more durable than either Sir Timothy Carew O'Brien or Frederick Fane.
Morgan will lead England for the first time in a one-day international today, against the country of his birth and for whom he played 23 times. He talked about it in his typical manner yesterday: sensible, pragmatic, utterly confident.
"I take risks as a batsman," he said, "so I suppose I'm bound to take some as a captain. I'm not surprised by this because I'm a leader in the group but I am greatly honoured."
Morgan sees his background as irrelevant. From the age of 14, such was his talent and such the dearth then of cricketing opportunity in Ireland, he knew his future lay with England. Everything was a stepping stone across the sea.
O'Brien and Fane were both stand-in captains on England tours of South Africa, respectively in 1896 and 1909. In some ways, this is more testing for Morgan. Ireland will certainly let him know where he comes from, so to speak."I should think there will be some banter as there has been in the past. I'm not bothered so much by it now," he said.
Morgan missed Irish cricket's greatest hour. Injury forced him to sit out the astonishing World Cup match between the sides in Bangalore last February when Ireland, from a desperate position of 111 for 5, chased down a target of 327. That was entirely due to a unique innings from Kevin O'Brien, who made 113 from 63 balls.
He does not expect to repeat the feat. "If I play half as well, I'll be happy," he said. What Ireland are not wholly happy about is England's insistence on starting the match at 10.15am because of their need, or desire, to make a quick getaway after the match, or their decision to field a second-string team in which four debutants could appear (see below). But they understand they are being shoehorned in.
"If I was them, I'd do the same," said Ireland's coach Phil Simmons. The game in Ireland might be on a huge upswing but it is relative. In Clontarf Cricket Club yesterday the adverts for Guinness were accompanied by the slogan: "This is rugby country." England visit Ireland for their final warm-up match before the Rugby World Cup this Saturday; it is the second of the All-Ireland Gaelic football semi-finals this Sunday. Not even an Ireland victory today will knock them off the back pages.
Young, gifted and backed: England's new boys who could be in one-day team today
Ben Stokes (All-rounder)
The hairs on the back of the neck stand up when observers start talking about Stokes. A fearless, unfettered strokemaker who bowls decent right-arm seam, an international career seems his for the taking.
Any suggestion that he is neither an Englishman (because he was born in Christchurch, New Zealand) nor from Durham (because he spent his childhood in Cumbria where his father had gone to play rugby league) is fiercely resisted.
Durham picked him up as a 14-year-old and by the time he was 18 he was in the first team. He was not the first player (nor will he be the last) to shoot to prominence because of his deeds in a televised match. His quickfire 161 not out in the Championship for Durham in early 2010 had the critics raving.
Only 21, the word is he might already have played were it not for a brutally dislocated finger while trying to take a catch against Lancashire in May. The selectors are keen to promote him as quickly as they can. He really could be a true all-rounder and has the dashing method to match. Any mention of the "B" or "F" words in this regard should be resisted at all costs. But he is exciting.
James Taylor (Right-handed batsman)
If there were any justice, or at least if selection was like it used to be, he would have played for England by now. He has done everything that could have been asked of him when playing for England Lions, otherwise known as the A team, and capped it with two hundreds in the recent one-day series against Sri Lanka A.
It is possible that he has been restricted by playing for Leicestershire in the Second Division dungeon, where he has not always prospered. But his first championship century of the season last week, along with his Lions form, could hardly have been more timely. Sadly, he may need to reassess his loyalty.
He may be asked to take the opener's slot against Ireland today but, if not, he is certain at last to be given a chance. The first thing that strikes you about Taylor is his height. The son of a jockey, he is diminutive, especially by the standards of modern professional sport, where everyone is getting taller.
He plays beautifully off the back foot and in the three-day Lions match against Sri Lanka at Derby in May he played the most impressive innings. Eoin Morgan's big hundred took the plaudits but it was Taylor's well-crafted 76 at the top of the innings that made it possible.
Scott Borthwick (Leg-spinner)
That rarity among English cricketers which invariably provokes a frisson of anticipation and excitement: a leg-spinner. England has simply never produced leg-spinners. There have been plenty of potent performers able to spin the ball away from the right-handed batsman but they have almost invariably been left-arm finger spinners.
Shane Warne, however, upped the ante with his deeds for Australia and Borthwick might, just, be the one who breaks the mould. At 21, it is too early to tell and lots can happen to leg-spinners' actions. But Durham are using Borthwick wisely, encouraging him but not overusing him.
He is already an astonishingly mature performer with a method to impress good practitioners. Consistency should come in time. Only Warne among the breed had regular accuracy from the start and at present Borthwick bowls too many bad balls.
He has overtaken Adil Rashid in the selectors' thoughts – the perception is that Borthwick is a smarter cricketer – and he can also bat. It may not be his time yet but if he can learn how to be a leg-spinner on north-east pitches he has something.
Jonny Bairstow (Right-handed bat/wicketkeeper)
Yorkshire have had a troubled season with their young team but Bairstow has rarely let them down. He came into the season without having managed to turn any of his highly attractive innings into a century and now has three.
He is the son of the former Yorkshire and England cricketer, David Bairstow, and like his dad, started his professional career young (indeed, he was the Wisden Almanack's first schoolboy cricketer of the year). While he has also followed in his footsteps as a wicketkeeper it is not that which will make his name unless he makes considerable improvement. At present he drops too many straightforward balls.
As a batsman, however, he may have a glowing future. He made 82 on his debut for Yorkshire and although it took 17 more fifties before his maiden hundred he had already shown enough in the middle order for his composure to be unquestioned.
His chief quality – and it is not to be underestimated – is his ability to play in unpromising circumstances. It may be a good time for him to make his one-day international debut. He made his first hundred in the format last week. Like Stokes and Taylor it is easy to see him being part of the generation which eventually replaces the present grand team.Reuse content