For Ireland fans feasting their eyes on the live broadcast, the first hour of play after Andrew Balbirnie won the toss and chose to bat must have been an emotional rollercoaster. They saw Ireland opener Gareth Delany exit without contributing.
They also watched Paul Stirling go from looking like a fish out of water against David Willey to an epitome of assurance who creamed Reece Topley down the ground. Moments later, they witnessed the senior pro walking back to the pavilion, having sliced an overpitched delivery from David Willey to backward point.
Then Ireland skipper Balbirnie took upon himself the job of flattering to deceive. His majestic straight drive off Willey and the thunderous sweep off Moeen Ali had barely kindled the glimmer of hope when he offered part-timer James Vince his first international scalp. Between the moments of short-lived ecstasy and despair, the Ireland loyalists went through a familiar foreboding of 'here we go again.'
The circumstances were precisely the same two days earlier when Willey put behind his World Cup snub and chewed apart Ireland batsmen like nicotine tablets. It was Curtis Campher then who dropped anchor and heaved the visitors to a first-innings total worthy of bowling at. With the scoreboard now reading horror figures of 78/5 courtesy Willey and Adil Rashid wreaking havoc, it was the right-hander once more who would come to Ireland's rescue.
Mind you, this was only Campher's second one-day appearance. Not that the first was any less special. Yet there he was, pulling his team out of choppy waters with resilience and maturity far beyond his years.
Campher's heroics saved Ireland a few blushes
The rebuilding mission wasn't all fun and games though. As if cleaning up the mess left behind by the top-order wasn't an uphill task in itself, Campher had to deal with a certain Adil Rashid plying his trade with flawless artistry.
The assortment of regulation sliders and disguised wrong 'uns had already seen him zip through Kevin O'Brien's defences and coax Harry Tector into an insipid loft. While his fellow counterparts never seemed to get a hand of Rashid's guile, Campher exercised greater control in terms of picking the leg-spinner's variations.
The match scenario accorded Campher the luxury to tread water versus Rashid, but he chose to be somewhat proactive in his approach. He was quick to bludgeon anything pitched full towards sweeper cover and manipulated the leg-side field whenever Rashid veered on to the pads. Only after the leggie exhausted his quota of overs did Campher march out of his self-imposed leash and hit the gas pedal.
The acceleration jaunt kickstarted with Campher bisecting the mid-wicket and square leg fielder with an authoritative pull shot off Ali. He wasn't able to find the rope frequently enough off the pacemen, but the deft nurdles into the empty pockets fetched him lots of doubles which kept the run rate ticking.
Campher uncorked an audacious paddle-scoop off Topley as nonchalantly as he would spread melted cheese on bread. Besides taking him to fifty, the shot also marked the flicking of the switch to engage his beast mode. He shuffled frivolously across the crease, manoeuvred into acrobatic positions, and dealt a few lusty blows to give Ireland the psychological edge of having reached 200.
Notwithstanding Willey's excellence with the new ball, Campher's blazing pyrotechnics revealed the left-armer's sheer inefficacy at the death. Ireland's number seven to eleven batsmen added 119 runs between them en route their late flourish as Willey leaked a staggering 34 in his last three. The treatment meted out to him had more to do with his defensive thought process and in turn, selection of lengths.
For instance, Willy would get spanked through cow corner on the very first ball of the 47th over. The left-arm pacer then played into Campher's hands by overcompensating to serve a juicy half-volley next up which had 'hit-me' written all over it. Campher was in no mood to let the golden opportunity slip and thumped the loosener over mid-off's head.
Even then Willey refused to mend his ways and doled out another nothing delivery that was brilliantly reverse-paddled by Campher over short third-man. Rather than committing the cardinal sin of banging the ball right into the slot, resorting to gun-barrel yorkers or deceptive change-ups would have done his bowling economy a world a good.
Though Jonny Bairstow's blitzkrieg meant Campher's effort went in vain, skipper Balbirnie lavished praise on Ireland's latest batting sensation.
"Campher batted brilliantly today and showed us the way. He got us back into the game. He's batting at seven now but he's putting pressure to bat a bit up the order. He looks very much at home and his tempo today was very good. He got us to a respectable total today and got us something to bowl at," the losing captain highlighted during the post-match press conference.
The lopsided nature of the consecutive drubbings might persuade Ireland supporters into thinking that there's no light at the end of the tunnel. Though they need to derive inspiration from Campher's performance, which proved that if you just hang in there, things will get better for sure.Published 02 Aug 2020, 19:38 IST