Morgan revival key to England's ODI hopes
When people talk of the great moments of limited-overs cricket, this match will not warrant a mention. There were no echoes of Sir Viv's 1984 Old Trafford century here; none of the drama of Allan Donald dropping his bat as he did at Edgbaston in 1999; no comparison with Sachin reaching a double-century or of Gilchrist thrashing a century to win the 2007 World Cup. Nor is there an urn for the winners of this series. In the grand scheme of things, it really does not amount to very much. But, in the years and months ahead, it might just be that we reflect on this game as the day when England started to believe they could win the 2015 World Cup.
If that sounds excessive, it is worth reflecting for a moment on the context of this match: England had not beaten Australia at Lord's since 1997; Australia are the No. 1 ranked ODI side in the world; England, inserted in testing conditions, overcame a disadvantage worth perhaps 20 to 25 runs to win.
Make no mistake, this result could, so easily, have gone the other way. Had Brett Lee or Clint McKay taken the edge of the bat rather than beating it regularly in their testing first spells; had Michael Clarke not called Matthew Wade for an improbable single; had the Decision Review System (DRS) not reprieved Ian Bell when he had just three and, most pertinently, had Eoin Morgan not produced a fine innings, Australia could well have won.
There are many more hurdles to clear before England can be considered a consistently good ODI side and rumours of their resurgence will be met, in some quarters, with guffaws of laughter until they prove themselves in Asia. But this series is not all about results. It is about building for the future. And, with that in mind, this was a highly encouraging performance from England. For not only did they win, but they demonstrated once again that they have now chanced upon - and the sudden departure of Kevin Pietersen really does mean they chanced upon it - a well-balanced side that is well-suited to the challenges posed by two new white balls, good bowling and testing conditions.
Morgan will gain the plaudits, just as tourists only photograph the top of the Chrysler Building. But without the foundations provided by England's top three, he might not have had the platform to play his wonderful innings.
Some might criticise England for a slow start. After all, they scored just 27 in their first nine overs and, after 36 overs, had scored only 151. But, without the defensive ability of Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott, England could easily have found themselves 40 for 5 after an hour and out of the game. Instead they remained calm, reasoned that 270 was a competitive total and played, Morgan apart, sensible, percentage cricket. It is what they do best.
There are some issues with their method. For one thing, it leaves them overly reliant on Morgan for their acceleration (while Bell, Cook and Trott are all capable of changing gear, none of them can make the destructive contribution Morgan showed here), while they also have to show they can win on pitches where a total of 330 is par.
But one step at a time. This is a side that looked worryingly mediocre in India only seven or eight months ago. Who were hit by the "retirement" of their best played only weeks ago. They are not the finished article, but they are heading in the right direction.
The return to form of Morgan was particularly pleasing. After an awful tour of the UAE - in three Tests, three ODIs and a T20 in the UAE, he failed to pass 25 runs in an innings - there were concerns about his long-term future. But whatever his struggles in Test cricket, Morgan remains a key component in England's limited-overs side. The way he changed gear here, scoring 12 from his first 21 deliveries and 77 from his next 42 was immensely impressive. At one stage he struck three successive sixes, punishing Brett Lee's marginal failure to deliver a yorker with a stunning heave over wide long-on. Pietersen apart, it is hard to think of another England batsman that could have played such an innings.
Morgan put his revival down to some technical work he undertook after the tour of the UAE. "It's no fun when you're not getting any runs or contributing to the team," Morgan said. "Today was a big step for my summer. When I got back from Dubai, I had two weeks off on holiday and then I came back and reflected on what I had done poorly in the UAE and made some technical changes. One of them was the balance of my head and the other was my hands moving. It was very basic stuff."
Cook agreed that Morgan's innings was the difference between the sides, but also provided a reminder of the importance of England's top three. "To score at a strike-rate of 130-140 was incredible and it took us to a really competitive total," Cook said. "It was hard work to start with and you saw the ball nipping around. But what was pleasing that we didn't panic as a batting order. We kept wickets in hands and we all know that at Lord's and in English conditions you can make up time, particularly when you have people like Eoin down the order.
"The start might have seemed a bit slow, but we laid the groundwork for Morgan. I don't think we could have played much differently in the first 20 overs. It was hard work at the top of the order."
Cook also praised his bowling attack. While Tim Bresnan, still struggling to rediscover the nip he had before his elbow operation in December, had one disappointing spell and James Anderson, hampered by a groin strain, struggled towards the end, there still appeared no weak link in the England attack. Steven Finn, bowling with pace and hostility and skill, was quite magnificent.
"It's very nice to have five experienced bowlers," Cook continued. "They might bowl the odd bad over, but they don't bowl many bad spells. We thought 270 was a par score: defendable, but if someone had played out of their skin we probably couldn't have defended it. But we kept nipping out wickets. It wasn't a perfect performance in the field - or even close to it - so it's encouraging to have won."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo