England v Australia, NatWest Series, Lord's June 29, 2012

Morgan revival key to England's ODI hopes

After a tough time over the winter Eoin Morgan returned to form and played the type of innings that no other England batsman could have produced

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on July 1, 2012, 9:02 GMT

    @5wombats on (June 30 2012, 20:42 PM GMT) Re Morgan , it's just a confidence he portrays in the shorter formats and as I said before I think he almost tried to reinvent himself in UAE. I don't know why , but he just has that aura about him. Buttler is the nearest to him at county level but he has so far failed at international level. Re the other are we talking 1997? A guy who ate his carrots before a successful SC tour?

  • Randolph on July 1, 2012, 4:49 GMT

    It's a shame that England have to rely on more imports to perform. It would be nice to see an Englishman do well for once. Maybe Hales is the man.

  • Martin on June 30, 2012, 20:42 GMT

    @JG2704. Mmm.... Inasmuchas Morgan already has a track record for England we sort of expect him to come in blasting, and when he doesn't it's a let down. We were all badly let down by England in the Tests in UAE and Morgan was there. He was also useless in the ODI's because by then he'd lost it. We maintain that England have plenty of highly destructive batsmen who have barely had a chance - but just because they haven't had a chance it doesn't mean that they couldn't be just as tasty as Morgan or KP. Remember - KP didn't always come off, and when he didn't that irritated us too! BTW we used to bat at 5 in Australia... worked it out yet?

  • John on June 30, 2012, 18:40 GMT

    @5wombats on (June 29 2012, 21:53 PM GMT) Sorry Wombats but I sort of agree with George on this one. Hales inns was great too - and I see he continued his T20 form for Notts - but I feel that Morgan has that X factor about him and has a greater array of shots than any other Eng batsman. I wish he had tried to play with that sort of freedom in UAE. For me he changed his mindset and that was his undoing , but to me when Morgan is on top of his game , like KP he becomes almost unplayable.

  • John on June 30, 2012, 18:33 GMT

    @jackiethepen on (June 30 2012, 11:34 AM GMT) To be honest in that India game it was Strauss who was keeping Eng up with the runrate and not Bell and if it wasn't for a six from I think Shahzad in the last over we'd have lost that game. Bell and Cook have started playing well together and although on paper their strikerates were not great yesterday I totally recognize that they did a great job but let's have it right here , Morgan was the main man with the bat and without his acceleration after Bopara and Trott slowed the RR back down again Eng would not have won - simple as that. Maybe for once you could actually just give full credit to the guy who did the bulk of the work rather than feel hard done by that Bell's inns is not mentioned in the same terms as Morgan's who on this occasion doubled both Bell's score and SR.

  • Jackie on June 30, 2012, 11:34 GMT

    A couple of points George. Morgan is brilliant at finishing and explosive bursts of acceleration. Cook and Bell are opening. Morgan would surely have been troubled by the conditions at the top of the order yesterday? The roles require different skills and different contributions. Both Cook and Bell can bat at a decent rate. Bell's fastest has been a t20 23 ball 50 for Warks and a Lions 50-over game 153 ending with a 22 ball 50. When the rate needed increasing in an ODI against India Trott and Bell provided this over: 161616 (Bell 2 sixes). As for 330 being beyond England - surely time to remember the famous tie with India at Bangalore? The best thing is not to categorize our best batsmen.

  • Robert on June 30, 2012, 11:03 GMT

    Considering that the court of world opinion has not judged the white European presence in southern Africa an undiluted success, it is rather churlish to complain when one or two of them begin to drift back to play cricket for England.

  • Cricinfouser on June 30, 2012, 11:00 GMT

    >>>>we don't buy this talk about winning in Asia; it's just another place where cricket is played. It's no more or less important than anywhere else. England's performances are not measured by what they do or don't achieve in "Asia".

    Do not give up very soon.....

  • Ash on June 30, 2012, 10:55 GMT

    well written article. but maybe you shouldn't paint everything around the world cup. england have never been a great ODI unit before this, so its a bit premature talking them up. if it was the All Blacks in Rugby or Australia in cricket, you would be justified...both these teams have a rich tradition in world cup history and a preoccupation with world cups would be justified. ironically, that fixation isn't present with the current Australian ODI team.

  • Matt on June 30, 2012, 10:13 GMT

    What's the betting that, between now and 2015, the ICC bin the two new balls and render England's strategy completely moot?

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