Ireland’s best performer in their first ODI against England, Curtis Campher is yet to play a game there as he recently relocated from South Africa. The 21-year-old’s grandmother was born in Northern Ireland.
Campher’s move to Ireland has its roots in a mid-match chat in 2018. Ireland was in Pretoria in 2018, playing against an Easterns and Northerns Combined XI before the qualification tournament for the 2019 World Cup.
Campher, then 19, impressed with 49 from 39 balls for the South African side and Ireland captain Niall O’Brien, who knew about his ancestry, had a word with him and convinced him to move.
Campher told BBC: “Niall O’Brien said, ‘Listen you’re a good player, I will chat to you after the game.’ And that is where one thing led to another.”
Campher relocated to Dublin earlier this year but has not played a match on Irish soil yet.
“It was as good a debut as I’ve seen in an Irish shirt in the last number of years, and it’s a huge positive to take,” skipper Andrew Balbirnie said of Campher in the post-match press conference on Thursday.
“I thought it was very impressive for a guy who’s not even played a game in Ireland yet to come in as a 21-year-old and put in a performance like that,” he said.
While Ireland lost by 6 wickets against the World Champions England, Campher had a debut to remember. His score of 59 not out from 118 balls was the highest score from his side. He is only the third Ireland player to mark his ODI bow with a fifty. The first had been current England captain Eoin Morgan in 2006.
The first ball Campher faced in international cricket was a hat-trick chance for David Willey, with Ireland 28-5. He negotiated that and then built partnerships with Kevin O’Brien and Andy McBrine, taking Ireland from 28-5 to a respectable 172.
With the ball, Campher took a wicket with his fourth ball. He had Tom Banton caught off a top edge. This was a curious twist of fate. Campher had dismissed Banton in a match for South Africa Under-19 in 2018.