‘Fantastic Story And Fantastic Comeback’ – David Willey Hailed After Career-Best Performance
David Willey (© AFP)

England captain Eoin Morgan hailed the “heart and soul” of David Willey after the left-arm paceman marked his return to the global arena by setting up the world champions’ six-wicket win over Ireland at Southampton on Thursday with his first five-wicket haul in one-day internationals.

Left-arm paceman Willey, appearing in his first ODI since being left out of England’s World Cup-winning squad for Jofra Archer, took 5/30 as Ireland were dismissed for just 172 in a match that marked the return of white-ball cricket from the coronavirus lockdown.

An unfamiliar-looking England, in the first of a three-match series that launches the new World Cup Super League to determine qualification for the 2023 50-over showpiece in India, slumped to 78/4 at the Ageas Bowl.

But Sam Billings, a late injury replacement for Kent team-mate Joe Denly, made 67 not out, including 11 fours.

Together with World Cup-winning skipper Morgan, he shared an unbroken fifth-wicket stand of 96.

Former Ireland batsman Morgan completed the win with more than 22 overs to spare when he hit spinner Simi Singh for six.

But this victory was set up by Willey, who said being left out of the World Cup squad at “the eleventh hour” had been “difficult”.

The 30-year-old all-rounder, whose return surpassed his previous ODI best of 4/34 against Sri Lanka in Cardiff in 2016, also told Sky Sports: “I wasn’t sure whether my opportunity would come again, I absolutely loved being out there, wearing the ‘Three Lions’ again, and wickets are just a bonus.”

‘Fantastic comeback’

Meanwhile Morgan lauded Willey, who took 4/12 as Ireland slumped to 28/5, by saying: “Given the story of David and where he has been the last year or so since being left out of England’s World Cup squad, it’s a fantastic story and fantastic comeback.

“He has always showed a lot of heart and soul and today, his skill level was exceptional,” he added after England’s first home ODI since they beat New Zealand in last year’s World Cup final at Lord’s.

Ireland were in danger of being dismissed for under 100 but all-rounder Curtis Campher held firm with an unbeaten 59 on debut.

“Curtis Campher was very good, he dug in when he had to and got a decent score,” said Ireland captain Andy Balbirnie. “But 170-odd was never going to be enough against England.”

Willey, the son of former England batsman and umpire Peter Willey, struck with just the fourth ball of the match when Paul Stirling chipped him to Morgan at midwicket.

Ireland collapsed to 28-5 as Willey ripped through the top order before Campher denied him a hat-trick.

The 21-year-old former South Africa youth international, qualified for Ireland through his mother, went on to an admirable 103-ball fifty.

Kevin O’Brien, whose stunning 50-ball hundred set up Ireland’s remarkable win over England during the 2011 World Cup, made 22 before he holed out off leg-spinner Adil Rashid.

As happened before each of the recent England-West Indies Tests, players from both sides took a knee before play in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign.

England’s red and white-ball fixtures are overlapping in a season cut short by the COVID-19 outbreak and they are maintaining two separate squads, meaning several World Cup winners including Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Archer won’t feature against Ireland.