Ireland were at least competitive in their first one-day international at Lord’s. At Bristol last Friday they were simply embarrassing as they were routed for 126 in a match that lasted just 53 overs.
This time they could take pride in their performance, losing by 86 runs as they were dismissed for 243 in pursuit of a target of 329. William Porterfield, Ireland’s captain, will take the most pride after making a fine 82.
England were not at their destructive best with the bat as a group but Bairstow produced the kind of brutal cameo at the end of the innings – bludgeoning 72 from 44 balls – that demands another look at whether he can be shoe-horned into his country’s first-choice XI for next month’s Champions Trophy.
Bairstow, batting at five, only played in these two matches because of the absence of Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler at the Indian Premier League.
But the fact he is surplus to requirements when everyone is available just illustrates how strong this England batting line-up is.
The Yorkshireman has been one of his country’s most consistent batsmen in Test cricket over the past 18 months. He has rarely disappointed when selected in one-day cricket either.
This was another example as his late blitz on Ireland’s bowling, which included three sixes and seven fours, proved once and for all he has the power to slot seamlessly into this limited-overs batting line-up.
How England would actually get Bairstow into their team for the Champions Trophy is another question. Perhaps he could come in at seven if, as in these two matches, they only opt to play one spinner? The performance of Joe Root with the ball, his three wickets here following the two he took at Bristol, certainly make that a possibility.
Whatever happens, England know they will face far tougher tests than this over the coming weeks – starting with a three-match series against South Africa, the world’s No1-ranked ODI team, later this month and then the Champions Trophy, for which they are hosts.
However, Eoin Morgan’s team can only beat what is put of front of them and they did that again convincingly.
On a flat pitch and with the boundary rope pulled in, England might have thought a total in excess of 400 was possible when they lost the toss and were asked to bat first.
That’s something they have achieved twice in the past two years since their reinvention from the roundheads of world to cricket to dashing cavaliers.
Yet this was at times an uncharacteristically stodgy batting performance.
The truth is Morgan’s side might not have even got past 300 had it not been for a turbo-charged sixth-wicket stand of 88 in 46 balls between Bairstow and Adil Rashid.
Such was the rate at which England’s scoring sky-rocketed at the end of their innings that 61 runs were plundered from the final four overs.
Rashid, again picked ahead of Moeen Ali as the sole spinner, struck a brisk 39 before flicking Peter Chase behind.
But it was Bairstow’s stunning clean striking that took centre stage during the closing stages.
Morgan, who also hit three sixes, was the only other England batsman to clear the ropes in this match.
Before Bairstow’s range-hitting exhibition, though, England failed to live up to their billing even if Morgan and Root both impressed with half-centuries during a third-wicket stand of 140.
The pair had come to the crease with England 60 for two in the 13th over after losing Alex Hales, bowled by Tim Murtagh for 32, and Jason Roy, driving Barry McCarthy to extra cover on 20, when both had made starts.
With both openers off key, Root and Morgan’s partnership was vital for the hosts.
Root was eventually dismissed for 73 in the 36th over attempting to hit Chase over mid-off. Morgan, on 76, followed, caught at extra cover off McCarthy.
That wicket brought Sam Billings to the crease. The Kent wicketkeeper-batsman disappointed, scoring just seven before holing out to spinner George Dockrell.
The loss of three for 29 reduced England to 229 for five in the 42nd over.
But Bairstow, assisted by Rashid, ensured a target was set that always appeared out of reach for the visitors.
Ireland did make an encouraging start to the chase, openers Ed Joyce and Paul Stirling guiding their side to 68 without loss after 13 overs before Stirling was dismissed caught behind on review to the first ball of the 14th bowled by Jake Ball.
Joyce fell 15 balls later, bowled by Root, and by the time Andy Balbirnie was trapped lbw by Liam Plunkett Ireland were 87 for three in the 19th over.
Root struck twice more with his part-time off-spin, removing Niall O’Brien and Gary Wilson as the visitors slipped to 154 for five.
By now this contest was more about whether Porterfield could reach his century.
He was running out of partners, though, once Kevin O’Brien was caught slog sweeping Rashid.
Porterfield eventually fell 18 short of his hundred, bowled by Mark Wood. And the Durham fast bowler wrapped up victory with the wicket of Dockrell in the 47th over after Plunkett’s dismissals of McCarthy and Tim Murtagh had put England on the cusp of victory.Reuse content