Twos to the fore for England, as Scrimshaw's struggles inject the intensity

George Scrimshaw bagged his second as Lorcan Tucker holed out to midwicket AFP/Getty Images

If you try hard enough, you can dress anything up as learning. Physicists working through their PhDs are learning. 15-year-olds reaching for a third can of cider are learning. And England debutant Tom Hartley bowling middle-over darts to Ireland's Harry Tector and George Dockrell with four men on the boundary? Well isn't this just fascinating.

England have started their cull to the 2027 World Cup, with today's Trent Bridge 48-run win against Ireland the first match of a cut-throat four-year testing ground of who can hack it and who can't. And today, it was the turn of Will Jacks, Sam Hain and Rehan Ahmed, with scores of 94, 89 and bowling figures of 4 for 54, to prove their worth.

"You've got a hell of a lot of county players who could do a job," Jacks said of the depth of white-ball talent in England. "We've only just come together but we've all played together a lot and against each other numerous times, we know each other with how we play, we know each other as people, so it's almost like you gel straightaway.

"The team aspect doesn't really come into it, we're just guys who are really relishing playing for England and getting these opportunities while the World Cup squad's away."

In the case of Jacks and Rehan, their performances were further reminders of why they are considered the golden boys of the next generation and perhaps even an injury away from still heading to India for the World Cup, whilst Hain's debut outing put him in pole position to be the Dawid Malan of 2023-27. The back-up who refused to be dropped.

Truth be told, the idea that this is the first iteration of the team that will walk out in South Africa in four years' time, as mentioned by captain for the series Zak Crawley, is a nonsense. Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Sam Curran, Gus Atkinson, and Reece Topley, to name but a few, still exist and may well object to that notion.

"We are always looking for the next thing," Jos Buttler, England's full-time captain, lamented recently. "If people are still performing, age is irrelevant."

This was England 2s, against Ireland 1s. It's as simple as that. But that in itself presents its own challenges. Young professionals entering the top level of the sport for the first time speak of the oddity that is 2nd XI county cricket. On an individual basis, the skill level is the highest they've played, but the intensity isn't there. Because the fact of the matter is, it isn't a match where the eleven players on the pitch are invested in the result so much as their own individual performance. It is eleven people, with their elbows out, fighting for the first team.

"It's a good question," Jacks said of whether the emotion differed when selected for England's first-choice squads or when playing as a back-up. "I wouldn't say so. I feel like both times when I was in the T20s against New Zealand, I was thinking the same thing. It's an opportunity to show what I can do and test myself against international quality bowling attacks and teams…hopefully I'll play more games for England with whatever squad."

Nevertheless, it's also a fact that sits at odds with the selling of any major event. The banners outside Trent Bridge advertised England's arrival in Nottingham with photos of Liam Livingstone and Mark Wood. Neither of whom are here given their presence in the World Cup squad. The player featured on the front of the matchday programme is Harry Brook. And he's not here either. Because he's been promoted to the 1s at the last minute.

"The kings of white-ball cricket are coming to Nottingham," read the big signs outside the ground. Whilst inside the ground, Derbyshire's George Scrimshaw, boasting a List A average of 37.5 and an economy of 7.5 from the four matches that he's ever played in the format is handed his ODI cap. Should one bow, curtsy, or salute when in such revered company?

Scrimshaw, much to the relief of the entire ground, finished the day as a good-news story having briefly threatened to join the parish of Simon Kerrigan and Jonathan Woodgate as players defined by a debut gone wrong. His first over featured four no-balls and his second featured a further two as well as a wide. After eleven legal deliveries his figures read 1.5-0-35-0. Mercifully, his twelfth found the edge of Andy Balbirnie's bat and was well held by Ben Duckett at slip. After a nauseating wait to check the no-ball, his maiden international wicket was confirmed. Even umpire Rod Tucker broke from the protocol of neutrality and found the time to give him a pat on the back.

"Everyone could see he was pretty down," Jacks said, with Scrimshaw visibly distressed for much of his opening spell. "I bowled two no-balls myself. It's a bad feeling, especially when you're on debut, the adrenaline, the emotion. Everyone's felt it in some way, just for him to be on TV, a global stage, it was a horrible feeling."

That he recovered - and more to the point, excelled - to finish with figures of 3 for 66 from 8.4 overs speaks to his character, professionalism and why he had earned his spot in the first place.

His second wicket, a mistimed pull from Lorcan Tucker that was brilliantly caught by a diving Duckett at midwicket, was able to be celebrated with certainty rather than concern and provided the moment of sheer joy that should've accompanied his first wicket. No-one has the right for their international debut to automatically be the best day of their life, but they do at the very least deserve for it not to be the worst. Scrimshaw is a player that is widely popular, and it won't just be him who sleeps easier tonight as a result of his three-wicket haul.

"He came back really well," Jacks concluded. "For him to come back and take that wicket, obviously all the lads got around him. We all know what it's like when you're on a run of bad form, or in such a short period of time, you're feeling terrible about yourself - everyone did that because we know it's like. That was good to see. It was good because he came back really well, got three wickets and bowled nicely, which he deserved."

Was this a first-showing of a new era of white-ball cricket in England? No. But it was a good win for the 2s. And as every club cricketer knows, a happy second eleven makes for a happy club.