England v Ireland: What we learned from hosts' series win

By Matthew HenryBBC Sport at the Ageas Bowl

England will leave Southampton slightly disappointed, and Ireland jubilant, after the tourists' thrilling victory in the third one-day international.

In the first two matches England looked a class above, but on Tuesday Ireland provided a reminder of their talents.

BBC Sport looks at what we learned from the series.

Morgan still crucial to England

A year ago, following the World Cup win, Eoin Morgan's international future was in doubt as he took time before committing to England's "new cycle".

This series, and the final match in particular, proved once again why he is so crucial to England's fortunes in white-ball cricket.

He guided England to victory in the first match and in the third smashed his way to 106 from 84 balls - but just as important are his skills as a captain.

Without Morgan in the third ODI - he sat out Ireland's stunning pursuit of 329 because of a groin injury, with vice-captain Moeen Ali taking charge - England looked rudderless.

They lost their discipline with the ball in the crucial closing moments, dropped catches and lacked their usual intensity in the field.

The bio-secure nature of these matches, held in empty stadiums, had given an insight into Morgan's captaincy style.

His vocal presence, constantly encouraging his bowlers and maintaining his side's focus, was badly missed on Tuesday.

Billings and Willey still have something to offer

England had to name a depleted squad for this series with many of World Cup winners away with the Test side.

Sam Billings and David Willey benefitted most and on the whole both proved they have plenty to offer England.

They are aged 29 and 30 respectively and it would have been easy for England to opt for younger players like batsmen Phil Salt and Sam Hain or bowler Henry Brooks as they build for the 2023 World Cup.

For Willey it was a first series since he was dropped from last year's World Cup squad, while Billings - a regular in recent squads but rarely picked in the final XI - was able to bat more than once in a series for the first time since 2017.

Willey had a difficult final match but was named player of the series - he took 5-30 in the first match, claimed 2-48 and scored 47 not out in the second, and made 51 in the finale - and Morgan picked him out for praise afterwards.

Seven of his eight wickets came in new-ball spells, which will help his case for a place in England's T20 World Cup squads in 2021 and 2022.

Although Billings failed in the third ODI, he guided England to victory in the first two matches, making 67 not out and an unbeaten 46.

He has described England's current 50-over side as the "hardest team to get into in world sport" - and may still find himself on the sidelines when Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Joe Root return.

The end for Vince?

In contrast, James Vince, another player who has been around England squads for some time, failed to grab his chance.

He played all three matches at number three and returned scores of 25, 16 and 16.

At his home ground in Southampton it looked perfectly set for him to deliver - in the first game in particular he arrived at the crease early with England chasing 173 and Ireland's inexperienced bowling attack depleted because of injury.

Instead, Vince played an innings all too familiar. He cracked four dazzling boundaries before edging behind off a loose drive.

Vince, 29, has now played 41 matches for England in all formats but has not scored a century or played a match-defining innings.

With Root to return and players like Warwickshire's Hain, whose List A average of 59.78 is the highest in history, waiting in the wings, Vince's time may be up.

Bairstow committed to all forms

If batsman Jonny Bairstow had his way he would not have been involved in this series. At the start of the week he admitted he was "disappointed" not to be in the Test squad.

He is undoubtedly one of the best white-ball players in the world and he showed his prowess again in the second ODI, thumping 82 from 41 balls.

His Test career has stalled, however - he was left out of the final squad to play West Indies and the first Test against Pakistan.

Asked if he had considered focusing on limited-overs cricket, Bairstow's response could not have been clearer.

"No, to be quiet honest with you," he replied, bluntly.

Instead, Bairstow will return to Yorkshire and play in the four-day competition to try and regain his Test place.

Ireland have talent to challenge the best

Ireland's victory in the final match showed what is possible when the experienced players deliver.

Curtis Campher, Ireland's new 21-year-old all-rounder, was the only real positive from the first two matches, along with a solid 3-60 from 20-year-old seamer Josh Little in the second ODI.

Having struggled previously, captain Andrew Balbirnie and experienced opener Paul Stirling returned to form on Tuesday and delivered brilliant centuries to power Ireland to a famous victory.

If they can continue that form, and allow youngsters like Campher and 20-year-old Harry Tector to grow into international cricket, Ireland will continue to challenge the best.

They must, however, deliver when series are still on the line and not save such performances for dead rubbers.

Top Stories

Explore the BBC

Cricket on the BBC