Curtis Campher plays it cool after sterling Ireland debut
South African-born 21-year-old scored a half century in ODI defeat to England on Thursday
Curtis Campher of Ireland hits runs watched on by Jonny Bairstow of England during the first one day International between England and Ireland at The Ageas Bowl in Southampton. Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
One day international: England v Ireland, Ageas Bowl, Southampton, Saturday, 2pm (Live on Sky Sports Cricket).
Many a sportsperson has been reflexively dubbed an overnight sensation upon making their first splash on the big stage, but it is a tag that couldn’t be more appropriate for Curtis Campher. Earlier this week, the 21-year-old was just happy to be in the squad of players taken into the biosecure bubble. Fast forward to Friday and the all-rounder was fielding questions in a press conference prime ministerial in its length, lasting nearly half an hour.
The interest was fitting: the night before, on international debut, Campher made an unbeaten 59 after walking to the middle with Ireland 28-5. Then with the ball, his pace was sufficient to pick up a big scalp with his fourth delivery. Add in the mix the fact that he yet to step onto a cricket field in his adopted country since making the official move from South Africa - arriving just last month after Covid-19 restrictions lifted - and the story is both fascinating and a handy distraction from the six-wicket pasting they copped from the world champions.
It also relegated Ireland’s injury news to a secondary matter: seamer Barry McCarthy has been ruled out of the second ODI as a result of the knee injury he acquired when bowling the first over on Thursday. Curiously, instead of reverting to veteran Boyd Rankin to fill the void, Peter Chase – at 26, a decade his junior – has been brought into the squad as cover, the older man omitted altogether. Left-arm spinner George Dockrell also gets his opportunity, with the expectation of a pitch friendly for tweakers as it will be the same surface used on Thursday.
“It’s happened so fast and I couldn’t be happier,” Campher said when invited to express his enthusiasm about a week he’ll never forget. “It has just been amazing. Everybody has been so supportive and I’m just happy to do a job for the team. This has all taken me by storm, playing for the national side. I’ve just been fortunate that the opportunity has come my way.”
It’s in keeping with that sense of gratitude that Campher isn’t seeking a promotion up the order from the number seven position, even if Kevin Pietersen was generous in his praise of the young man’s technique the Sky Cricket broadcast. “It was a case of just staying focused and not giving my wicket way,” he said of his approach when walking out to face the music with England rampant. “I wasn’t that nervous. I knew it was a hat-trick ball but I told myself to just focus and see what happens and when I got through that first one I thought, it’s not so bad. Let’s just get through this and was happy to do a job for the team.”
It was a major decision for Campher to leave the Proteas’ pathway to pursue an international dream made possible by his Irish passport, acquired for him as a nine-year-old. His cricketing upbringing was exclusively South African; Jacques Kallis was the childhood hero. And when winter comes, he’ll be back there too, taking advantage of playing as much as he can through this development period. But it will be Ireland enjoying the benefits of that work at a time in the cycle when the stated aim is to invest as much as possible in young talent.
It’s also clear he’s a good kid. When asked about the slings and arrows that might come his way as a ‘passport player’, Campher played a straight bat about not getting involved in negativity. On the other hand, when his parents are raised, he’s just a loving son. “They are just really happy and I’m happy for them too; they have sacrificed a lot for me.”
After interrogating every inch of his life story so far, the final question was an obvious one: how do you pronounce that surname? Cam-fer, the new man confirmed. It’s one to remember.
Ireland: Andrew Balbirnie (c), Paul Stirling (vc), Curtis Campher, Peter Chase, Gareth Delany, George Dockrell, Josh Little, Andrew McBrine, Kevin O’Brien, William Porterfield, Simi Singh, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Craig Young.
England: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Tom Banton, Sam Billings, Tom Curran, Liam Dawson, Liam Livingstone, Saqib Mahmood, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, Reece Topley, James Vince, David Willey.