NZ v End, Group A , Wellington February 19, 2015

How long a rope for Morgan?

England's problem - one of their problems - is that they are not strong enough to afford passengers and Eoin Morgan is fast becoming one
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Play 01:29
Matt Prior believes Eoin Morgan will be unflustered by the focus on his poor form

In the bad old days of England cricket, a man with four ducks in his last five innings would have been history.

In the days when England used 29 players in a series - the Ashes of 1989, for example, - players could barely survive two successive failures. Graeme Fowler's last four Test innings were 49, 201, two and 69. Andy Caddick was dropped after taking 5 for 67 in the first innings at Port of Spain in 1998 and never played again after a 10-wicket haul in the Sydney Test of 2003. It was chaos.

England's continuity of selection policy was a key part of their success in the years that followed. It provided security for the team. It allowed people to play without fear. It remains a sensible stance. But, taken to an extreme, it creates a blockage and stifles the development of new players.

So for many months - long after it had become obvious to the impartial observer - England found encouragement and promise in Alastair Cook's clear decline. They made excuses for his struggles and ways to mitigate for his failures. As a general role, as soon as you hear someone described as "a resilient character" you know they're in trouble.

The intention, no doubt, was honourable. But there are consequences to such actions and by persisting with Cook for so long, the selectors gave his eventual replacements far less time to learn their trade ahead of the World Cup. It is hardly surprising that Moeen Ali and Gary Ballance, in particular, are finding it hard to gauge the pace to bat at the top of the innings. They have, relative to many of their opponents, only just started in the job.

Now England are doing something similar with Eoin Morgan. Despite Morgan's poor record over the last year or so - worse that Cook's - the management have chosen to accentuate whatever positives they can find and try to ignore the evidence that is beginning to pile up in front of them.

It has become fashionable, in England circles, to repeat the line that Morgan scored a century just five ODI innings ago. As if this run of poor form is a recent blip. As if the critics are jerking knees and over-reacting.

Maybe. It was a fine innings, certainly. A reminder of what a fine player Morgan can be. But the fact is, that innings was not a return to the norm. It was a rare spike on a graph that shows a relentless downward slope. It was one of only two scores of 50 or more (the other was an innings of 62 in Colombo in December) dating back a year and 26 ODIs.

Morgan's record when England win is even worse - a highest score of only 33 in the same period - and only once has he passed fifty against a Full Member in a winning cause since September 2012.

Which tells us one thing: Morgan is not winning England any games.

And that's the point of being in a team. It is not about individual milestones. It is not about Steven Finn's hat-trick in Melbourne - possibly the most meaningless hat-trick in the history of international cricket - or face-saving innings. It is about shaping matches. It is about directly intervening in them to help your side win.

Morgan isn't doing that. The unpalatable fact is that Morgan - temporarily - has become a passenger in this side.

Eoin Morgan's form has been an important cause for concern for England © Getty Images

England's problem - one of their problems - is that they are not strong enough to afford passengers. They would be better allowing Ravi Bopara or Chris Jordan to come in as allrounders. Or give Alex Hales, who is batting nicely in the nets, a run at the top of the order.

It doesn't mean they have to drop Morgan forever. As Bopara could tell him, a player can be dropped and recalled in a single series.

So they go into the game against New Zealand desperate for Morgan to contribute. Not just because it is a game they really could do with winning - their fragile confidence might not recover from another reverse like that suffered in Melbourne and defeat leaves them with no room for error in the remainder of the competition - but so they don't have to take another awkward decision.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on February 20, 2015, 6:48 GMT

    The heads that need to roll are in English cricket management starting with Paul Downton! No one can convince me that sacking Downton and reinstating KP could be a bigger mistake then the game I just watched.

  • srikantr on February 20, 2015, 5:35 GMT

    what a ridiculous decision from England team. before WC they have played Taylor at No 3 , and in WC his position was changed to no 6. England can never learn anything from past. They should get in Kevin Pietersen back in team and should give chance to Hales to open the innings. bell is the best player to handle middle order , and Pietersen at No 3 ,

  • humdrum on February 20, 2015, 4:06 GMT

    New Zealand battering the hapless English bowlers who look more like lambs going to a slaughter every ball. 51-0 in 4 overs says it all.Likely finish in 10 overs.Abject ssurrender by England.

  • humdrum on February 20, 2015, 3:47 GMT

    England look the next match (against Lanka) and they get an early ticket to Blighty. The body language looks depressing to even their die-hard fans.Sir Iron Bottom,their biggest cheerleader sounds mighty depressed today and that is saying something.

  • humdrum on February 20, 2015, 3:15 GMT

    Well,well. A real processsion, English style.From 103-3 to 110-7. Some good fast bowling destroys their batting, but more important, has made them look flatfooted and totally bereft of ideas. Sad to say, the associate nation teams have looked more clued in and inspiring and given a good account of themselves so far.Methinks it is england who needs to go through the qualifying rounds for the next WC rather than the lower ranked teams. England should not be allowed to take their place for granted. A pathetic show.

  • cloudmess on February 20, 2015, 0:57 GMT

    Gunning for the wrong man again, George. I would sack Moores first (who clearly has a mildew-like effect on England captains) and then see if Morgan recovers his form.

  • dummy4fb on February 20, 2015, 0:27 GMT

    Well written Georgy! At least you had the courage to call a spade a shower! For a while now even when Cookie was failing match after match, Morgon was not far too behid in terms of tins, or rather in terms of not scoring runs. It was a surprise that England chose him as their skipper in the middle of his rotten form Cook was not Morgon was just just getting there in terms of non performance. A Root or a Butler, or a Ballance would have been a better long term prospect for England. Four 0s in the last five innings. He would have long gone in any other team. This is just the beginning of the problem for England. As captain if he is not just scoring but not winning matches along with his scores, England will go no further than these first rounds.The fringe teams like Ireland, Afghanistan and Zimbabwe will start doing better than England, with their limping captain at the helm. Perform or perish should be the only motto Endland should follow. No time for sympathies and soft corners.

  • dummy4fb on February 20, 2015, 0:24 GMT

    Morgan, like pretty much every single England player, is overrated when they are performing well, and when they begin to look ordinary, like they are, people can't unsertand it, having overrated them for so long.

  • ruester on February 19, 2015, 23:29 GMT

    Is it just me or is there a giant KP size hole in England's batting line up? I would much prefer to see Hales given a chance, despite his run of poor form than have Morgan. however i do like. Morgan as a captain. My biggest problem with the ECB is there is no accountability for failure from the management, or coaches. David Saker seems to do an amazing job of sucking confidence out of our fast bowlers and making them bowl as 10 mph less than they do normally. Moores is about as inspiring as a wet lettuce and don't even mention the joke that is Downton. We all know we are not going to win this WC but the decisions made by the management have greatly contributed to our lack of a competitive side.

  • disco_bob on February 19, 2015, 22:53 GMT

    Morgan looks like a man valiantly trying to weather the pressure, but we should not get sucked into focussing on Morgan. The fact is that, this WC was over before it began. The fundamental error was made one year ago when the ECB refused to sack Cook. It could then be argued that the implacable refusal to hold on to Cook until it was too late, can be traced back to the sacking of KP. The disaster that is now England's ODI team who have somehow conspired to reach the perfect nadir at the start of the WC, is entirely down to the ECB and their inability to manage their star players and instil a cliquey self important culture in the dressing room.

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