England v South Africa, 3rd ODI, Lord's May 29, 2017

Morgan frustrated by grassy Lord's pitch


Play 01:25
WATCH - England lose six wickets in first five overs

Eoin Morgan largely exonerated his batsmen despite a record-breaking collapse at the start of the third ODI against South Africa.

England were 20 for 6 after 30 deliveries - the first time in history a side has lost six wickets in the first five overs of an ODI - as they struggled against a fine attack in conditions offering assistance to bowlers. While Jonny Bairstow engineered a partial recovery, he could not prevent England slipping to their first defeat in nine ODIs.

But Morgan, the England captain, felt the wicket was more to blame than the batsmen and praised South Africa's seamers - Kagiso Rabada and Wayne Parnell - for harnessing conditions expertly.

Suggesting the pitch was not suitable for ODI cricket, Morgan hinted that the toss - which was won by South Africa's captain, AB de Villiers - was disproportionately important and went a long way towards deciding the game.

"I'd be disappointed if we did come across surfaces like that in the ICC Champions Trophy," Morgan said. "To win or lose the game on the toss in a major tournament is hard to take. Any side batting first has the potential to lose the game.

"I don't think it was an ODI wicket. It makes it one-sided which I don't think is good for anybody. There was a lot of live, green grass on the wicket.

"We saw the shots they played when they batted. We couldn't play shots like that early this morning.

"But South Africa bowled beautifully. They did not give us anything to hit and if they did we managed to nick it. Credit goes to South Africa, they came back really well."

While Morgan did accept that England might do well to reflect on the platform they built at the start of their innings in the second ODI in Southampton - they were 42 for 1 at the end of the first 10-over Powerplay- he did not think his batsmen had taken an overly aggressive approach in conditions that might have necessitated a more calculated game plan.

"You earn the right to play positive cricket," he said. "And we do need to keep our feet on the ground. But we didn't play too aggressively. A lot of our shots were defensive shots. When it moves around like that, you nick the half-volleys."

The good news for England is that they can expect much more batting-friendly conditions on the grounds used for their Champions Trophy game. But there may be some disquiet in the camp if they find themselves inserted on an overcast morning on a pitch showing any sign of moisture.

Still, Morgan is unlikely to admit any such fears at this stage - his team has been built on a commitment to attacking cricket that will only be inhibited by doubts - and will instead hope his batsmen can put this reverse out of their mind and continue to play the fearless cricket that has served them so well in recent months.

Morgan also hinted that England will keep faith with Jason Roy in their Champions Trophy side.

Roy endured a miserable series against South Africa, scoring just 13 runs in three innings. And with Bairstow continuing his fine run of form with another half-century - his third in his four most recent ODI innings - there might be a temptation to bring him into the side in place of Roy.

But despite admitting telling Bairstow he was not selected was "the hardest thing," Morgan remains committed to selecting Roy for the start of the Champions Trophy and agreed that last minute changes to the side - something of a characteristic of England going into global tournaments in recent times - might send out an unhelpful message.

"It's the hardest thing telling Jonny he's not playing when he's done nothing wrong and he scores a huge amount of runs," Morgan said. "I'm very, very impressed by him. He never lets us down. Whenever he comes in he scores runs and he continues to bang on the door.

"But as regards selection, Jason is the No.1 pick at the moment. Him and Alex Hales have been our 1 and 2 for quite a long time. They have had ups and downs but ultimately they have played in the fashion that we have played as a team and they have been very important to that."

England remain confident that all the first choice players who missed this match will be fit for Thursday's opening Champions Trophy encounter against Bangladesh. Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes could, according to Morgan, have played on Monday if required, while the seamers, Mark Wood and Liam Plunkett, were just rested to ensure they remain fresh. Chris Woakes, too, was said to have "pulled up really well" with Morgan anticipating he will be "fully fit for Thursday."

Whether, in the case of Stokes, that means as an allrounder or a specialist batsman remains to be seen. Such is his long-term importance to England, they will be loathe to risk his fitness.

"He can run around in the field like a mad man," the coach, Trevor Bayliss, told Sky Sports. "And when he got his hundred over the weekend, he didn't even feel it. I's just when he's bowling at full tilt. Hopefully that means it's not much and hopefully an extra day or two and it'll come good.

He's a very important part of the team. He brings energy to the team. And, as we saw, he can hold his position in the team as a batter as well, so I'm sure he'll be there on Thursday."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Revan on May 31, 2017, 10:31 GMT

    Hilarious! I've watched the replays...The pitch doesn't affect swing or the batsmen's choice to chase wide-ish deliveries early on!

    This is only an attempt to trick the groundsmen into preparing highways! I hope the pitches in the tournament are balanced, like this one was!

  • Earl on May 31, 2017, 6:10 GMT

    Morgan is always full of excuses that don't make sense.You win the toss on an overcast day in any form of the game and the toss winner will most likely be bowling.if you are not good enough to cope with those conditions you should be playing under a dome.England can't play the turning ball,now complaining about green top wicket.

  • ranganathan on May 31, 2017, 5:42 GMT

    since world cup 2015 exit onwards English wickets become truly batsman paradise, that show how england changed dramatically post world cup 2015. if condition favor bowlers resume pre world cup 2015 english team.

  • ojannt6302370 on May 30, 2017, 22:54 GMT

    Morgan has certainly fulfilled all qualification rules necessary for to play for England. Whinge, whinge, whinge. Great batsmen should be able to adapt to the conditions.

  • Jay on May 30, 2017, 20:51 GMT

    England will be out of contention following the first round. Do they think they are gonna win just cause they are at home. Pfff...

  • GeoffreysMother on May 30, 2017, 20:02 GMT

    The Irish are surely used to 'forty shades of green'. The Lords wicket must have been the forty first!

  • Bazza on May 30, 2017, 19:18 GMT

    Please please England, if you dont want to play Bairstow can we swap him for JP Duminy??

  • Steven on May 30, 2017, 18:49 GMT

    Just rewatched the 6 wickets. Not sure this was excessive movement. Ball normally swings and moves around a lot more in ENG from what i remember. Cricket is becoming a batting game

  • Roy on May 30, 2017, 18:23 GMT

    Morgan's complaints do not reflect well on his abilities as a captain. There is an old adage 'play the pitch' - clearly something that neither Morgan , or his team , understand. 4 wickets fell to balls which could, and should, have been left alone. No one could sensibly conclude that it was anything other than bad batting. Enter Bairstow who gave a lesson to the other batsmen. His captain could only say that it made no difference and Bairstow wasn't going to be a first pick. The mantra of Bayliss , and Morgan, about 'giving one too many chances'...is now applied to Roy. As one earlier comment mentioned - Morgan , Hales , Roy and Buttler are serial Test failures . So perhaps they are not 'proper' batsmen on difficult pitches. Can it be just a coincidence that the two best batsmen - Root and Bairstow - learned their cricket at Headingley?

  • stephe2084436 on May 30, 2017, 18:09 GMT

    poor excuses from Morgan, didn't expect anything else. after that performance, the paying public should be entitled to a refund. we are expected to stump up plenty of cash for the pleasure? of watching England, but when they make several changes and just treat the game as a way of giving non regulars a run out they are taking the Mickey of the British public. the whole attitude is poor, they just take the public for granted .

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