England v Australia, NatWest Series, Lord's

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

George Dobell at Lord's

June 29, 2012

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Eoin Morgan hit four sixes in his unbeaten innings of 89, England v Australia, 1st ODI, Lord's, June 29, 2012
Eoin Morgan is a key component of England's one-day side © Getty Images

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

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by JG2704 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?

Posted by RandyOZ 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.

Posted by 5wombats 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?

Posted by JG2704 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.

Posted by JG2704 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.

Posted by jackiethepen 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.

Posted by Penkridge 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.

Posted by CricFin 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.....

Posted by ozwriter 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.

Posted by igorolman 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?

Posted by cyborg on (June 30, 2012, 9:33 GMT)

good stuff from England , Ian bell was just out regardless of that faint touch , that goes against the best batsman , but a good delivery it was indeed , they escape , good stuff

Posted by JimDavis on (June 30, 2012, 8:56 GMT)

Great innings by Morgan, but once again I'm left wondering what is the point of Steve Smith? Also when Hussey fell at the start of the powerplay, why would you send out an allrounder when you still had your backup opener available?

Posted by John-Price on (June 30, 2012, 8:06 GMT)

Watching this England side is ODIs, i do get the feeling that instead of being tactically one world cup behind the rest of the field, they actually ahead of the game. Using orthodox test batsmen at the top of the order and five test quality bowlers enables them to maintain control throughout the game. It was this quality that saw them through difficult times with both bat and ball and eventually wore the Aussies down. If they can hold this game plan together, they could do well.

Posted by RyanHarrisGreatCricketer on (June 30, 2012, 6:42 GMT)

@George Dobell : Why on earth do you establish a link with the 2015 wc for every odi played by eng? After eng won against pak u said this is a team on its way to the wc. before this match u said:eng start wc journey. now:this is the day dat gave eng the belief.

My question to Dobell is are england the only team who are focussing on the wc and he other teams are just playing for time pass.

And remember one thing: No country which has planned too much has succeeded. Lets see wat eng are like 18 months b4 the wc and how many games they win on flat tracks?

Posted by   on (June 30, 2012, 3:32 GMT)

Good innings by Morgan when ENGLISH really needed.

Posted by Trickstar on (June 29, 2012, 23:47 GMT)

@landl47 How in today's international schedule does Aus playing out of season have any bearing, they've not long since played WI and most teams play all year round.We go abroad every year and play out of season, hardly a excuse or a mitigating factor. Not sure I agree with you're other point either, I hope that this England side does believe it can win the WC in Aus, nothing wrong with that at all, if you take out the Indian series what more do England have to do to make people believe they're a good side, no ones saying their the best but they are currently a very good side. They've got great belief and confidence going at the moment, obviously we need to wrap this series up before we get too ahead of ourselves but still you can finally see a plan and the team are heading in the right direction. Agree with you about other destructive players, you could see the likes of Buttler playing a very similar innings and his time will come, hopefully sooner rather than later, he's a freak.

Posted by   on (June 29, 2012, 22:49 GMT)

Next World Cup is in Australia, this team needs to win in Australia not Asia.

Posted by Partyman on (June 29, 2012, 22:30 GMT)

5wombats - you nailed it. The point about winning is Asia is the most valid since Claire Short labelled Tony Blair a liar! Hats off to you.

Posted by landl47 on (June 29, 2012, 21:54 GMT)

Morgan had developed an exaggerated dip as part of his trigger movement. Not only did it mean he was off-balance, but his head was clearly bobbing down and then up. He had eliminated that from his set-up today and as a result looked much better balanced and able to move more freely. I still have reservations about him as a test player, but coming in at #5 in limited-over games when there are no fielders round the bat, he looked very good today. Oh, and yes, George, saying that today is the day England started to believe they could win the WC DOES sound excessive. This is game one of a 5-game series with Australia playing out of season. If England sweep the series 5-0, then maybe there might be a grain of realism in such a belief, but I don't think they'll do that. There's a long way to go till 2015.

Posted by 5wombats on (June 29, 2012, 21:53 GMT)

"Pietersen apart, it is hard to think of another England batsman that could have played such an innings". Sorry George - but you have a short memory - where were you last Sunday? The wombats were at Trent Bridge watching a young man called Hales playing a magnificent Innings of 99 in the T20i. Sometimes players come off, and sometimes they don't. Today was Morgan's day, but England have plenty of equally destructive players in the hutch - Bairstow, Buttler, Woakes, Hales - they are all there. Morgan has to justify his place and after last winter this guy owes England fans big time. Also - 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".

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