Sussex v Middlesex, LV= Championship Div One, Hove, 1st day

Morgan misfires in first-ball exit

Alex Winter

April 6, 2014

Comments: 5 | Text size: A | A

Sussex 86 for 3 (Prior 32*) trail Middlesex 105 (Lewis 4-34, Magoffin 3-21) by 19 runs
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Eoin Morgan is cleaned up first ball, Sussex v Middlesex, County Championship Division One, 1st day, April, 6, 2014
Eoin Morgan made a first-ball duck at the start of a season in which he hopes to win a Test place © PA Photos
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Eoin Morgan blundered the first fence badly as the field in the eight-round race for England Test selection in June jumped away with the tape raised on the new season at Hove. Sam Robson was also a slow starter as Middlesex were fired out for 105 on the opening day.

Morgan opted for county cricket ahead of another stint in the IPL with the England team-sheet for the first Test against Sri Lanka showing plenty of blank spaces. But he was bowled first ball by the veteran Jon Lewis, who enjoyed the sprightliest of debuts for Sussex and whose four cheap wickets provided a rude reminder about the demands of Championship cricket in April.

This was Morgan's first Championship match in April since 2009 - and only his ninth four-day game in the last five seasons. It was a short reacquaintance in the middle as Lewis swung one into his middle and off stumps. Morgan has often been criticised for not having a tight enough technique for Test cricket - although it was his failure to deal with Pakistani spinners that saw him dropped from England's Test side - and he will have to prove overwhelmingly that he can deal with the moving ball if England are to pick him ahead of proven runscorers in the Championship.

Robson also failed. He has moved to the top of the market to become Alastair Cook's partner against Sri Lanka after a strong winter which included five centuries in six matches in Australia for the England Performance Programme and for England Lions in Sri Lanka. He now needs Championship runs to solidify his chance of selection.

Lewis relishes new challenge

  • Jon Lewis praised Sussex for "a shrewd piece of business" after they rescued him from am inactive spell at Surrey and giving him a chance to extend his already lengthy county career.
  • Lewis, who took four wickets for his new county on debut, said: "I thought I was extremely underutilised at Surrey. I always back myself to do the job. I wouldn't call Sussex signing me a punt, I'd call it a pretty shrewd bit of business.
  • "I feel great, fit, strong and feel I'm bowling well so age is irrelevant and gives me a great head start. I felt I bowled well all pre-season. Sometimes when you get to the heat of the battle it can go astray but I felt I was in good rhythm.
  • "It's the first day of the season and I've done a good job for the team. It started to swing when it warmed up a bit after lunch. I didn't think I'd get much of a go down the hill but perhaps I'll get more of a go now."

But his price will have drifted slightly after a 34-ball stay where he applied the necessary careful judgement and discipline to survive most of the only hour before lunch - rain delayed the start until noon - before driving awkwardly from the crease at James Anyon and edging behind.

Robson was not the only one to fall for a loose stroke outside off as Middlesex produced little evidence of an improvement in a middle order whose struggles last season seriously undermined what was for a while a solid Championship challenge. Morgan was a boost to their ranks but was one of five single figure scores from Nos. 3 to 7.

Also beginning the season with international cricket a firm target is Steven Finn. He returns to county action after a miserable winter where his bowling disintegrated and after not featuring in England's Ashes debacle and ending a problematic phase of his career with his star fallen significantly.

He was not given the new ball and came on to bowl at Matt Prior. Third ball, Prior drove gloriously through the covers for four and two balls later a hook also found the fence. Finn went for 20 in four overs as a reminder that he still has a long way back to his best form.

With three of Middlesex's England potential players failing, Prior was left to provide some good news. His flourishing strokeplay was absent in Australia, leading to his dropping after the third Test, but here he brought a smile to spectators with his jaunty unbeaten 32.

Lewis has long departed the thoughts of national selectors but here he enjoyed a fine debut for his third county with his nibbling swing bowling tailor-made for the conditions. The wicket here is one of several relaid in the close season as part of a gradual overhaul of the square but there was no significant help for the bowlers.

A stalwart of 17 seasons at Gloucestershire, Lewis' move to Surrey saw him limited to one-day cricket but Sussex saw a wider role for him and he proved his worth with a darting spell of 4 for 12 in seven overs after lunch. Sussex will probably be without Chris Jordan for a large part of the season and their head coach Mark Robinson will be delighted with the first contribution from what looks like a shrewd acquisition, especially in early-season conditions.

Lewis' dismissal of Morgan followed his opening wicket with the previous ball: Neil Dexter chalked his name on the poor-strokes-against-the-swinging-ball board with a long reach outside off to drive and edged to Ben Brown.

Not too dissimilarly, Dawid Malan edged to Ed Joyce - the only Middlesex batsman to get settled - and Adam Rossington fell behind the wicket, the 20-year-old preferred to Joe Denly with Angus Fraser hoping to get some cricket into his squad, mindful of potentially losing Morgan and Robson to England later in the season.

Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (April 7, 2014, 12:32 GMT)

Talk of Robson and Morgan graduating to Test Cricket soon are largely media driven , rather less likely to happen than we are given to expect.Robson has experienced some recent success and is a fine prospect, however his Aussie background gives rise to much of the current speculation, and others remain ahead of him in the selectors thinking, whilst Morgan's impetuosity and problems against the moving ball may be glossed over in The one day game, he is likely to be exposed at the top level.More likely to be on contention are Root, Compton, Moeen Ali, Patel, Vince, Taylor and the unsung Varun Chopra.Trott will also return at the earliest opportunity.

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (April 7, 2014, 7:19 GMT)

@BobMartin He has renounced the IPL to make a Test bid given that half the season is played before the 1st Test. Personally, I don't see it. In fact, I am not even sure that he would be in Middlesex's best XI but, as they have him available, I can see why they want to give him a try. In previous season, he has not always made the XI, even when available.

Posted by WilliamFranklin on (April 6, 2014, 19:18 GMT)

Well done Lewis but that's a pretty old side Sussex put out. Where's Beer?

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (April 6, 2014, 19:02 GMT)

This is the legendary MiddlesexBattingCollapse.com that has de-railed the team time and again. Until there is a reliable middle order they will not challenge for the Championship. Last season the bowlers were able to keep them in the fight thanks to a series of big starts from Rogers and Robson: once on left and the other lost form the side simply could not put up defendable totals and started to lose regularly. In fact, the run-in form was more appropriate for a side fighting relegation and that is where Middlesex may end up unless the batting starts to perform more reliably.

What a start from Jon Lewis. Maybe he will not do it again this season but, if his first two months on juicier pitches are good, he will have been a brilliant signing.

Posted by bobmartin on (April 6, 2014, 17:27 GMT)

Only the ninth four-day game in the last five seasons for Morgan, and people are talikng about him being in the test team.. Sounds like wishful thinking to me...

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