Yorkshire pair can inspire England against Ireland
Root and Plunkett value to lead the way in Bristol
Sky Sports 2, 11am Friday
England's record in major cricket tournaments is far from glorious but Eoin Morgan’s men are 10-3 favourites to see off their seven rivals in next month’s Champions Trophy.
Home advantage is a major factor in the betting but England’s price also reflects the huge strides they have taken in 50-over cricket since the 2015 World Cup and Morgan will be hoping for a convincing win over his former side Ireland in Bristol.
England are 1-8 to win the first of two ODIs against the Irish, who claimed a famous victory against them at the 2011 World Cup.
Ireland’s 11 at Bristol could feature seven of the players victorious in Bangalore six years ago, including century-maker Kevin O’Brien, who is a 7-1 shot to top-score again.
England’s 2017 squad contains no scarred survivors from that ignominious defeat and Morgan is rightly excited about his side’s prospects in the Champions Trophy.
They may not be fully tuned up for this game at an overcast County Ground, however. Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes are still at the IPL while Morgan and Jason Roy have recently returned from India after underwhelming stints with their franchises.
Ireland have a wealth of county and international experience with veteran Ed Joyce anchoring a batting line-up in which the O’Brien brothers and Middlesex’s Paul Stirling aim to provide the fireworks.
But England’s batting depth should enable them to avoid any pre-tournament slip-ups and wicketkeeper Buttler’s ODI deputy Jonny Bairstow warmed up with a stunning 174 off 113 balls in Yorkshire’s One-Day Cup win over Durham on Wednesday.
It’s not a fixture for high stakes but a couple of Bairstow’s county teammates could distinguish themselves for England.
Test captain Joe Root made two typically classy half-centuries in three One-Day Cup outings for Yorkshire and lit up the March ODI series in the Caribbean with scores of 90 not out and 101.
With Roy and Morgan possibly a little undercooked and Alex Hales, who got a first-ball duck against Sri Lanka before rain ruined last year’s ODI at Bristol, a feast-or-famine type of player, Root looks the best top-runscorer bet.
Fast bowler Liam Plunkett is worth chancing to be England’s top wicket-taker. Plunkett dismissed three of the Sri Lankan top six at Bristol last June and his international renaissance continued this year in the West Indies, where he claimed 4-40, 3-32 and 3-27 in the three matches.
J Root top England runscorer
1pt 3-1 Coral, Ladbrokes
L Plunkett top England wicket-taker
1pt 4-1 Hills