The reigning men’s One-Day International world champions return to action at home for the first time since lifting the World Cup in July 2019. England will kick off the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Super League with their three-match home series against Ireland on Thursday.

Played under bio-secure conditions, like the recently-concluded Test series, the three ODIs will take place without fans, behind closed doors in Southampton.

With none of the England players featuring in their Test series against the West Indies named for the ODIs, England will be missing their premier fast bowlers apart from stars such as Ben Stokes, Joe Root and Jos Buttler. The bowling attack will depend heavily on spin duo Adil Rashid and vice-captain Moeen Ali.

For Ireland, skipper Andy Balbirnie, who took over from long-time skipper William Porterfield last November and has only led in a three-ODI series in the Caribbean in January, will have to lead from the front. Long in the shadows of their neighbours, Ireland stunned England at the 2011 World Cup but that remains their only win in the format in matches between these two sides.

“It’s an outstanding opportunity for this team: we’ll be the first Irish international team to play since lockdown. It’s exciting, but we’ve got to make sure that we don’t get overawed by it and go out and enjoy ourselves,” the Ireland captain said.

Billings, Topley return in 14-man ODI squad for England; Campher called up by Ireland

England’s red and white-ball fixtures are overlapping in a season cut short by the coronavirus outbreak and they are maintaining two separate squads, meaning a clutch of World Cup winners will not feature against Ireland.

But Morgan, England’s limited-overs captain, said he had more talented players at his disposal than he had ever seen before.

Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow, who both played in the 2019 World Cup on home soil, are in the squad for the Ireland games alongside dynamic batsman Tom Banton and fast bowler Saqib Mahmood.

“There’s such a big pool of players that are unbelievably talented,” said Morgan. “We don’t know if they will succeed in international cricket but you would be comfortable selecting them in a squad if you needed them at any stage.”

He pointed to an abundance of top-order batsmen but said England needed more strength in depth in the middle order and lower order.

Dublin-born Morgan said England’s first World Cup triumph had increased the level of expectation placed on his team but had also boosted confidence.

“Winning last year has given our guys a huge amount of confidence in the process, strategy and planning we went through over a four-year period,” he said.

“So it allows us to go into every World Cup with that strategy and forward-thinking and contributing along the way the whole time and trying to continually get better.

“Seeing the finished product last year was an eye-opener for everybody that hadn’t won a World Cup but also it creates a level of expectation everywhere we go and that’s one that sits well with some of our guys but for a lot of our guys they haven’t experienced that so it’s important to recognise what’s expected of us moving forward because we want to win more trophies.”

With first-choice ODI stars rested, Eoin Morgan hails England’s ‘unbelievably talented’ player depth

England vs Ireland ODIs

Result Margin Ground
3 May 2019 England 4 wickets Dublin (Malahide)
7 May 2017 England 85 runs Lord's
5 May 2017 England 7 wickets Bristol
8 May 2015 N/R - Dublin (Malahide)
3 Sep 2013 England 6 wickets Dublin (Malahide)
25 Aug 2011 England 11 runs Dublin
2 Mar 2011 Ireland 3 wickets Bengaluru
27 Aug 2009 England 3 runs Belfast
30 Mar 2007 England 48 runs Providence
13 Jun 2006 England 38 runs Belfast

What’s the Super League

A new Super League to determine qualification for the 50-over World Cup will also get underway on Thursday. England and Ireland are the first teams to be in action in the 13-nation league.

The seven top-placed nations in the Super League will join hosts India in getting automatic places for the 2023 World Cup.

The International Cricket Council’s 12 full members and the Netherlands will take part with each side playing four home and four away three-match series.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought havoc to the cricket calendar, with the 50-over and T20 World Cups pushed back. The start of the Super League was also delayed because of the pandemic.

ICC general manager Geoff Allardice had said it was working with national boards to find dates for the Super League to be “safely and practically rescheduled” even as “costs will go up” as international cricket returns to action.

“The precautions that need to be taken to ensure the safety of the players and other participants in the matches are going to add an extra layer of cost to the staging of the games,” Allardice told a small group of journalists in a video call.

He said that while some countries were already restarting cricket, others were waiting for government clearance.

Under the previous qualifying system, the top eight teams in the ICC rankings were joined by the top two sides from a qualifying tournament to make up the 10-team event held in England last year.

Teams will be awarded 10 points for a win, five for a tie, no-result or abandoned match and none for a loss.

The later qualifying tournament will feature five of the 13 sides that fail to get through directly against five associate nations.

The start of the Super League comes nearly a year after the ICC launched a world Test championship between the nine top-ranked teams.

Cricket came to a grinding halt in March just as England were about to start a world championship series in Sri Lanka. Since then, a Bangladesh tour of Sri Lanka and South Africa’s visit to the West Indies have also been lost. A New Zealand tour of Bangladesh due to start in August has also been postponed. All were to be part of the Test championship.

West Indies completed a three-match Test series in England and with the Indian Premier League scheduled to start in mid-September, cricket is slowing moving through the gears in resuming from the virus-forced hiatus.

England squad:

Eoin Morgan (Captain), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Tom Banton, Sam Billings, Tom Curran, Liam Dawson, Joe Denly, Saqib Mahmood, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, Reece Topley, James Vince, David Willey.

Reserves: Richard Gleeson, Lewis Gregory, Liam Livingstone.

Ireland squad:

Andrew Balbirnie (c), Curtis Campher, Gareth Delany, Josh Little, Andrew McBrine, Barry McCarthy, Kevin O’Brien, William Porterfield, Boyd Rankin, Simi Singh, Paul Stirling, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Craig Young

Reserves: Mark Adair, Peter Chase, George Dockrell, JJ Garth, Tyrone Kane, James McCollum, Stuart Thompson, Gary Wilson.

(With AFP inputs)