England 174 for 4 (Billings 67*, Morgan 36*) beat Ireland 172 (Campher 59*, McBrine 40, Willey 5-30) by six wickets
David Willey's maiden international five-for - including four wickets in his first 3.3 overs - set the tone before Sam Billings' unbeaten 67 sealed a comfortable England win over Ireland in the first post-lockdown ODI at the Ageas Bowl.
Debutant Curtis Campher's fighting half-century had dragged Ireland up to 172 after Willey's early burst before England fell into a spot of bother at 78 for 4, but Billings' fluent half-century led them to victory with all of 22.1 overs to spare.
The setting could hardly have been more different from England's last ODI on home soil, the World Cup final at Lord's last year seeming a world away from the biosecure bubble near Southampton. Despite music still blaring after boundaries and wickets, the absence of fans at a limited-overs international rankled more than it had during the Test series against West Indies, not least with broadcasters opting not to pipe artificial crowd noise in over the top.
Ireland had been at the ground for the best part of two weeks after training in small groups at home, but their top order collapsed dramatically in their first competitive game since March, slumping to 28 for 5 after 6.3 overs primarily thanks to Willey.
Willey had not played for England since May 2019, after being left out of their World Cup squad at the last minute to accommodate Jofra Archer's inclusion, but said in the build-up to this series that he felt refreshed after a winter off. His method here was simple, bowling slightly full of a length to give the ball the chance to move late.
Paul Stirling was the first man to go, chipping to midwicket to an inswinger, before captain Andy Balbirnie was sucked into a drive and edged a ball that nibbled away to slip. 20-year-old debutant Harry Tector soon followed for a nine-ball duck, chopping on against Saqib Mahmood when cramped for room.
Gareth Delany, whose high-handed backlift and big-hitting exploits in club and provincial cricket catapulted him into international contention last year, realised there was little point hanging about, whacking four boundaries and edging another through Roy in the slips.
But he failed to turn his start into a meaningful contribution as he slashed Willey straight to backward point for 22. Lorcan Tucker looked to have survived a tight lbw shout first ball, but England reviewed successfully to leave Ireland in all sorts at 28 for 5.
The rebuilding job was left to two men at opposite ends of their careers: Kevin O'Brien in his 134th ODI innings, and Campher in his first. Campher's inclusion had raised some eyebrows in Ireland - he has never played a competitive game there, only declaring for them earlier this year - but his pedigree for South Africa U-19s and impressive from in the nets was enough for Balbirnie to throw him straight in.
They added 51 in 14.4 overs to give Ireland some hope of putting themselves into a position to accelerate late up towards a competitive score, but O'Brien picked out long-off trying to whack Adil Rashid for a straight six and four balls later Simi Singh inexplicably ran himself out to leave them 79 for 7.
Campher batted for 118 balls and the best part of three hours in his desperate attempt to shore things up, rarely attacking after three early boundaries and instead looking to play Rashid out as best he could. Andy McBrine, in at No. 9, decided to free his arms while Campher continued to tick over, whacking Moeen down the ground for six before hitting Tom Curran for three boundaries, but with the partnership sitting on 66 he went one time too many, pulling him to Billings at deep square leg who took a good catch running in.
Barry McCarthy was the ninth man out, caught at deep square leg off Mahmood, and Craig Young holed out to mid-off running back to give Willey his five-for.
McCarthy went off five balls into the first over of the chase, with a knee injury, leaving Ireland without their main strike bowler, but they still managed an early breakthrough. McBrine was brought on early, and had Bairstow lbw on review with a regulation offbreak that Bairstow pushed at and missed.
Jason Roy looked to be finding some kind of fluency after a scratchy start as he carted McBrine for six and then hit successive balls from Young for four, one via the inside edge. But Young responded with a nip-backer on a length that trapped him on the pad and would have gone on to hit the top of middle.
James Vince was the third man to fall inside the first ten overs, with the sort of innings that has unfortunately become his trademark at international level. He hit five boundaries in nine balls after a steady start, four of them straight out the middle of the bat, but feathered behind with a loose drive to give Young his second.
Eoin Morgan opted to promote Tom Banton and Billings above himself, but Banton fell tamely in his first List A innings at No. 4. He had locked horns with Campher before in an Under-19 series against South Africa two years ago, and was trapped lbw by him on that tour; here, he flapped at a short ball and only managed to top-edge through to Tucker.
In truth, it never looked as though Ireland had any real chance of defending 172, not least after Morgan lashed his first ball for four through point. He cruised to a half-century stand with Billings, who took advantage of an unexpected opportunity that came about after Joe Denly reported lower-back pain in training yesterday and impressed with a wide range of reverse-sweeps, pulls and drives in reaching his highest ODI score.