Performance of The Day: Eoin Morgan
The Irish-born lefthander's brilliance was the difference between the two sides
In 11 balls of cool, calculated hitting, England’s Irish-born genius, Eoin Morgan, struck 34 runs and set the platform for victory in the opening ODI at Lord’s. It was England’s seventh win in a row, evidence of their increasing strength in one-day cricket.
Morgan’s explosive strokeplay came at the death of England’s innings when the home side were coasting to a total of around 250, which Australia would have fancied chasing. But after Morgan blasted 34 runs from 11 of the last 20 balls, the England score was a far more formidable 272-5.
Australia's chase fell just 15 runs short which suggests that Morgan's brilliant innings of 89 not out from 62 balls was the difference between closely matched sides.
With the field spread in the final overs, Morgan cleared the ropes three times in consecutive balls faced. A full toss from Brett Lee was driven over mid on, then a near yorker was drilled into the same spot. The medium pace of Shane Watson was then driven for a straight six from the other end.
His best shot, however, was a four driven so straight that it bisected the fielders on the boundary at long on and long off. Another gift of a full toss from Lee brought another boundary.
Lee’s full tosses were poor deliveries, but no one is more adept at getting his bat under such filth and depositing it into the stands. At every ground he plays at, Morgan insists on practice sessions in the centre of the square, during which England's coaches underarm him full tosses and he tries to hit home runs.
The practice is typical of Morgan's approach to batting which involves a lot of mental preparation. He can be seen visualising all his shots on the balcony before he goes in to bat.
Earlier in the day, England’s openers, Alastair Cook (40) and Ian Bell (41), started cautiously because of the tricky batting conditions. Dampness in the pitch offered movement for the seamers and rain interruptions undermined the batsmen’s concentration.
There followed the kind of solid, but unspectacular fifty from Jonathan Trott (54) which built an England platform without guaranteeing a match-winning score. England needed one of their middle order trio of Bopara, Morgan and Kieswetter to perform.
It was Morgan who produced the goods with an old-fashioned ODI innings, which started slowly and built to a crescendo. He made 12 runs from his first 21 balls as Australia’s wary seamers bowled wide of his off stump. But there followed a period of 21 balls in a row when he scored at least a run without taking any risks. His fifty came at slightly better than a run a ball.
But with 20 balls left England were 226-4, and in danger of posting a mediocre total, which Australia would have bettered. Morgan then produced the kind of hitting which we have not seen from him for a while.
Last year, in the UAE, Morgan was all at sea. He made only 180 runs all told in three Tests, four ODIS and two against Pakistan. His loss of confidence was manifested in his exaggerated crouching stance, which saw his bottom almost touching the pitch as he bobbed and weaved waiting for the ball.
A stillness has returned to Morgan’s game which suggests his mind is calmer and he has regained his self-belief. On this form, Morgan could yet win back his place in the Test side at number six before the summer is out. His main rivals, Bopara and Bairstow, still have a great deal to prove. Morgan's presence of mind is too rare a gift to be limited to the one-day arena.