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'The ball was pretty much dead': Ireland unimpressed by contentious stumping

William Porterfield said he was ‘proud’ of his team’s efforts as they very nearly pulled off a memorable win over England.

Ryan Bailey reports from Malahide 

IRELAND CAPTAIN WILLIAM Porterfield claimed ‘the ball was pretty much dead’ before Andrew Balbirnie was controversially stumped during yesterday’s One-Day International defeat to England at Malahide. 

The first-innings dismissal, with Balbirnie set on 29, caused huge debate and split opinion after England wicketkeeper Ben Foakes had waited for the Ireland batsman to lift his back foot before dislodging the bails.

Ben Foakes celebrates as Andrew Balbirnie is stumped Foakes appeals after stumping Balbirnie. Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Foakes, who would later play a match-winning innings with the bat, smartly gathered a leg-side wide from Joe Denly, held onto the ball and then broke the stumps when Balbirnie overbalanced. 

By the letter of the law, third umpire Aleem Dar had no option but to give Balbirnie out after video recourse, but the dismissal — at a crucial juncture — straddled a line between excellent, and opportunistic, wicketkeeping and an unsporting act by Foakes.

Porterfield, in pointing out that games would take ’15 hours’ if every wicketkeeper waited that long behind the stumps, was not impressed.

“How long do you wait? We’ll be playing 15-hour games if you wait that long,” the Ireland captain said. “You can say it was great wicketkeeping or you can say it’s a bit of a grey area of how long he takes.

“The ball was pretty much dead. The batsman wasn’t going anywhere or overbalanced. It wasn’t like he had fallen over. The keeper has waited for three or four seconds, if we do that all day it’s going be a pretty long game.

He [Balbirnie] was probably more unhappy that he did lift his foot a little bit as he wasn’t going anywhere or trying to do anything. The ball is pretty much dead like. On another day, that ball is probably [thrown by the wicketkepper] into the covers.

Foakes, meanwhile, had a different perspective.

“It was quite wide down leg,” the man of the match said. “But I got it back to the stumps. When it’s a sweep you think they might fall over and I just saw he lifted his foot and nicked them off.” 

It was just one moment Ireland will look back on with frustration, as they recovered from a disappointing batting performance to provide England — ranked number one in the world — with a scare in the first game of the international summer.

Defending 198, debutant Josh Little led Ireland’s charge with the ball with an impressive spell of fast-bowling, as the 19-year-old took four England wickets to give the hosts a real chance of a stunning win.

But Foakes, given his chance as the fourth-choice wicketkeeper, seized his window of opportunity to score an unbeaten half-century to help navigate England out of trouble alongside Tom Curran, with the pair sharing an unbeaten stand of 98.

While Ireland’s wait for their first victory over a Full Member since 2015 — and first win at Malahide since 2014 — goes on, there were positive strands to the performance from Graham Ford’s side, particularly the contributions of debutants Little and Mark Adair.

Adair, only drafted in after an injury to Stuart Thompson, showcased his ability with the bat during an entertaining innings — his back-to-back sixes off Curran were the highlight — before taking the new ball for Ireland. 

The visitors, chasing 199 to win, slipped to 46 for three and 101 then six, before Foakes and Curran took the sting out of Ireland’s onslaught and got their side over the line with three overs to spare.

“There are mixed emotions,” Porterfield said, reflecting on the four-wicket defeat.

Ireland v England - One Day International - Malahide Cricket Club Little enjoyed a dream debut. PA Wire / PA Images PA Wire / PA Images / PA Images

“It was one that got away as we were in a very good position. We just needed to get another wicket a bit earlier. The depth of their batting, they played the situation very well. They soaked it up and absorbed everything. It is potentially one that got away.” 

Ireland were superb in the field, holding onto three stunning catches, none better than George Dockrell’s diving effort to dismiss James Vince and hand Little his first ODI wicket. 

But the failure to call a review when Foakes, on 37, was given not out to a leg-before appeal off Tim Murtagh was hugely damaging, as replays showed the batsman would have been given out. Porterfield accepted he got it wrong.

“We should have reviewed it,” he said. “But there were only about 10 overs left and you don’t know if you’re going to get another chance? There were a couple throughout the day that were high and it probably looked as high as any of them but it was actually red. If I could go back an hour and 10 [minutes], I’d be reviewing it.”

Amid the disappointment, there were still reasons to be optimistic heading into a busy summer schedule. The performance of Little, the left-arm seamer who bowled aggressively and caused the England batsmen, including Eoin Morgan, real problems, was particularly encouraging.

“We knew he was a talented kid, he can bowl and he can get it down there,” Porterfield added. “It’s obviously a point of difference, having a left-armer, there’s not many of them knocking around. He’s a pretty talented boy. It’s quite natural so he’s just got to keep working and progressing his game.

“It has been a fantastic start, both of those lads, Josh and Mark, it’s a credit to their character that it looked like they’ve already played 30-40 games. 

Josh is a pretty relaxed character and I think that works in his favour. He’s pretty natural with a ball in his hand. That’s just the type of bloke he is, he just runs in, he’s got a ball in his hand and he’s going to bowl.

“If you simplify it down as much as that, which isn’t always necessarily easy to do, then you’ll be successful. It’s not going to happen for him every game, we’ve got to manage him quite well but he has showcased what he can do.”

Ahead of their tri-series against West Indies and Bangladesh, which starts tomorrow in Clontarf, Porterfield said the fielding performance can be a ‘real benchmark’ for Ireland moving forward as they look to make positive progress again.

“There’s pride,” he concluded. “It’s mixed emotions. Whenever you go around that circle, you get to proud but then once you keep going you get to disappointment as the opportunity is missed.

“What the debutants did was very pleasing. A lot of aspects were very pleasing, but it’s an opportunity missed. We can take a lot of confidence from this moving into the tri-series.”

Gavan Casey and Murray Kinsella are joined by Andy Dunne to discuss all the week’s rugby news:

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