Morgan hails 'incredible' Root as England achieve lift-off
Saturday morning in Mumbai, and Eoin Morgan looked like a man whose adrenaline had finally worn off as he slumped into a suite overlooking the seafront of Marine Drive, and set about recounting the tale of a sensational contest.
The late-night nature of the T20 itinerary, coupled with the visceral buzz of taking part in a contest of such magnitude, meant that there were one or two characters running on empty in the lobby of the team hotel as England gathered their belongings for a flight to Delhi and legs three and four of their campaign.
But the glow of satisfaction was evident amid the exhaustion, as Morgan reflected on a victory that not only revived his team's prospects of reaching the World T20 semi-finals, but served up incontrovertible proof of the squad's commitment to fearless, no-consequences cricket.
"We were just lucky to be a part of such an incredible match," Morgan said. "It was the best chase I've been involved with in an England shirt - or in any shirt."
It was an illogically brilliant spectacle, featuring cannon-fodder seam bowling from England and South Africa alike, and a brace of Powerplay onslaughts from Quinton de Kock and Jason Roy that, had they been shown in a cinema rather than a stadium, might well have been censored for excessive violence.
But the star of the show, and the star of an England team that continues to strain at the shackles imposed by two decades of arrested development in one-day cricket, was once again Joe Root. His flawless 83 from 44 balls brought a towering target of 230 down like a stack of Jenga blocks, and reaffirmed the growing belief that he is the most talented all-round batsman currently playing in the international game.
"I can't disagree with that," Morgan said. "He is the most complete batsman we've ever had.
"To use the same words I used to describe the game, he's incredible really. His innings last night was so substantial, certainly in this team's circumstances, it gives a huge amount of confidence to us knowing that he can go out and play the way he does without changing his game a great deal.
"It shows his class and composure, to play the match as if it was a 50-over game or a Test match. It was a monumental innings, given the experience he showed. He has a young head on his shoulders but still comes out with an incredible amount of humility. It goes a very long way in our changing room."
Root was given a leg-up in the run-chase by the extraordinary efforts of Roy and Alex Hales, who smashed the first two overs of the innings for 21 and 23 runs respectively in the most expensive opening gambit ever seen in a T20I. But the manner in which he took the urgency out of the contest was Root's most remarkable achievement.
With a constant diet of singles to maintain the most basic direction of travel, Root punctuated his innings with six fours, four sixes and five twos, the net result being a run rate that poked along at the best part of two a ball without ever looking the slightest bit rushed.
"It was very special," Morgan said. "Probably the best chasing innings I've ever seen, and that says a lot, considering the players we've had in the past, and players I've played with. It was class, absolute class.
"Other players might be quite one-dimensional in looking to get off strike or get a four, but he's looking to diffuse it with any scoring option at all. And it seems to be always low-risk. He does hit sixes, he does hit fours, but it never seems to be a big issue. And the way he shifted the pressure from over to over was brilliant to watch."
The serenity of England's pursuit was matched by the calm and calculating manner in which the team's brains trust manipulated their batting order to ensure the best men for the moment were out in the middle at any given time. That included Morgan himself, whose 12 from 15 balls was far from his most fluent knock but came at a time when England didn't need ballistics to stay ahead of the chase.
"I am a huge believer that, in a huge total like that, you don't chase it at the start of the game, you chase it in the last 10," he said. "And once you are in the game, as long as you are kept in the game in the first ten, as long as you have guys at the back end who can keep you boxing to the latter rounds of the boxing match, you back yourself to see it home."
In particular, Morgan said that the negotiation of Imran Tahir had been critical to the cementing of England's early dominance in the chase. The legspinner's solitary wicket came in the final over of his spell, in contrast to the chaos he had inflicted in the latter stages of the limited-overs series in South Africa earlier this year.
"We talked about it before coming to the game," said Morgan. "He's a vital part of their team, and one thing we did learn from the South Africa series as a whole was that when he takes wickets, he takes them in clumps. He's a huge player in their bowling line-up in that regard."
England haven't always been so flexible in their thinking - on many occasions in recent history, their one-day batting order has been treated with the sanctity of a holy relic. But under Morgan and Trevor Bayliss, the coach, a new dynamic has taken hold of the team tactics.
"It's a bit of an effort between the both of us," said Morgan. "If you think of an idea you shout it. It's quite an open conversation, certainly an open forum within the group. If somebody fancies it, they shout it, and that's a good thing to have."
Despite the daunting challenge that England had been set at the halfway mark, Morgan insisted that there had been no doom and gloom in the dressing room as they sized up their chances of hunting down 230.
"It was more about joking and messing around, and saying it's going to be one hell of a chase if we chase it down," he said. "When we chased down 350 against New Zealand [at Trent Bridge in 2015] it's almost like we took the scoreboard out of the equation. And obviously in T20 cricket, the odds are more in your favour."
Nevertheless, for all Morgan's bold assertions that the meat of the chase would come in the last 10 overs, nothing could prepare him for the launchpad that Hales and Roy erected.
"We came out and did the complete opposite," he said. "Alex Hales and Jason Roy started at 22 runs an over which was phenomenal really, I've never seen anything like it in my life and that's what makes it so special. Two guys with absolute freedom to play, and backing themselves 100% to take any bad ball down and just react on a whim. It was quite phenomenal to watch.
"I think last night creates a certain amount of belief within the side," he added. "We aren't necessarily a team that is vocal, we are a team that comes out and wants to produce. It's important to get a win at the early stage of the tournament, but we've still only won one game out of two. But creating that belief early on is important for the side."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets @miller_cricket