Morgan proves the man for all formats
Eoin Morgan's impact on the first day at Trent Bridge was so emphatic, at times you wondered what all the pre-match fuss had been about. All that talk of Pakistan's pace attack being the best and most varied in the world, and those deceptive memories of Australia being bundled out for 88, seemed somewhat irrelevant while Morgan and Paul Collingwood were muscling along in the post-tea session, taking their fifth-wicket stand to a game-shaping 213.
And yet, nothing that transpired was remotely out of keeping with the nature of England's opponents. It was Andrew Strauss who said it best on the eve of the game, when he pointed out that Pakistan were unlikely to maintain their disciplines for a full five days of a Test match, and therefore the onus was on England to settle into a consistent mindset, and to ready themselves to seize their moments in the ascendancy.
Nobody, however, carried out those orders to a greater or more thrilling effect than Morgan - certainly not Strauss himself, who looked thoroughly aghast at giving his innings away with a loose carve on 45. He needed some luck, most notably on 5 when he edged just short of the keeper, and again on 78, when an lbw appeal was over-turned on review, but for a man about whose durability doubts had continued to linger, Morgan's response was emphatic and protracted.
"This is a massive moment in my career," he said at the close. "It's extremely satisfying to score a Test match hundred in only my third game. It's a great achievement and I feel very proud. I think I've answered some questions and I think I've improved my game a lot, especially in this form of the game. I don't yet know exactly what Test cricket is about, but I have no doubt over my talent. I'm a confident player and I like to express myself, and hopefully I've got a lot more runs to score in the future."
Way back in the mists of time - in Sharjah in fact, before the tour of Bangladesh and long before the World Twenty20 triumph, Andy Flower had pooh-poohed the notion of Morgan being fast-tracked into the Test side because, he said, he needed to see him make runs in the County Championship before throwing him into the five-day mix. It was, on the face of it, a fair enough requirement: in 2009, Morgan had managed 413 runs at 24.29 for Middlesex, and had contributed indifferent scores of 4 and 28 not out in his one outing for England Lions against the Australians.
However, Flower is nothing if not a pragmatist, and having studied the ECB's spectacularly hotchpotch fixture list, he realised that first-class experience was simply not feasible - at least, not if he wanted to get Morgan on that plane to Australia. Thanks to England commitments and a six-week slew of domestic Twenty20 games, Morgan's first and only Champo appearance came for Middlesex against Sussex last week - a full two months after he had made his Test debut.
His performance in that game at Uxbridge hinted at the steel he could bring to England's middle-order - with Middlesex on the ropes, he ground out a dogged unbeaten 58 to save the game with two wickets standing - but today at Trent Bridge, the far greater fascination was the manner in which he managed to transfer his flamboyance across formats.
The straight six with which he went to his maiden Test hundred was a moment of ebullience that will be replayed for weeks to come, but the most eyecatching passage of play was his acceleration in the second hour after lunch. He and Collingwood had done the hard yards in grinding out 25 runs in 15 overs, but then, after Collingwood had loosened the defences with a brace of crunched cuts off Umar Gul, Morgan burst through the tackles like Brian O'Driscoll at Croke Park. Six fours in 12 balls hoisted his personal total from 9 to 33, and England's past the 150-mark, to establish a command that had not been relinquished at the close.
"The major factor today was I allowed myself to get in under difficult circumstances because the ball did a lot early on," said Morgan. "Paul is a great man to have around with plenty experience and a huge number of games, and we set up a great platform by getting past the swing and taking advantage when the ball went soft. It was a passage in the game that felt natural and right. The ball was coming on and I played it as it comes."
The best of his strokes was also the most anticipated, as he flipped his wrists at the point of delivery and patted Shoaib Malik with perfect timing through backward point. And that shot changed the parameters of Pakistan's attacking options as well. Later in the day, as Morgan closed in on his century, Danish Kaneria found himself bowling with a wide third man to intercept that reverse-sweep, which in turn left the covers ripe for the drive - twice in three balls as it transpired.
"The reverse sweep I played moved a fielder about 20 yards to his right, and I probably scored about 20 runs to his left," said Morgan. "I think it did create a lot of opportunities. But the feeling of getting to three figures was fantastic. I was glad he [Shoaib] lobbed it up. They brought the field up and I was expecting him to dart it in, and I would maybe nurdle it for one or something. But when he threw it up I knew I had to free my arms."
Morgan's place in this team would not even have been available had it not been for the broken foot that Ian Bell suffered while fielding against Bangladesh at Bristol, but he seized his opportunity with the same cold calculation that he has brought to innumerable one-day run-chases, most notably at Mirpur and the Rose Bowl. By the close it was hard to find fault with any aspect of his performance, even if the pitch was too slow to test him with the short ball - the one key area where Michael Bevan, the Aussie whom he most resembles, was badly found out at Test level.
But all that is for the future - a future that seems so much more assured now than it did at the end of the Old Trafford Test, when consecutive scores of 37 and 44 against Bangladesh had left his immediate Test career hanging on the whims of fate and squad rotation. "I don't really see it in that circumstance," he said, when asked about the opening that Bell's injury presented to him. "I see it as an opportunity to score runs and go out and represent England. But I'm far from thinking of a double hundred. The pitch is starting to deteriorate, so as many on the board as possible will be a massive advantage."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.