England in Sri Lanka 2011-12 February 28, 2012

Tough path back for Morgan

The left-hander could still become a fine Test cricket but he needs to go away and earn another chance. The IPL won't make that any easier

It takes a lot for this England management to drop someone. Especially a batsman. Loyalty and consistency have been buzzwords around the squad since Andy Flower took over and have served the team well in Test cricket. For Eoin Morgan, though, his position had become untenable after a debilitating time in the UAE where his confidence drained away with each passing innings.

He may have survived the cut for the Sri Lanka tour if he'd rekindled his form in the one-day and Twenty20 matches, as Kevin Pietersen managed with such outstanding results. But, if anything, the middle of Morgan's bat became more elusive as the tour drew to a close. His final innings of 9 in the deciding T20 was painful to watch and the mix-up with Pietersen almost merciful. He finished with 184 runs in 13 international innings on the trip. Some will say Morgan has been singled out but unlike Pietersen and Ian Bell, he doesn't have an impressive Test record to fall back on.

His two hundreds, against Pakistan and India, have been interspersed with too many low scores to suggest he is at home in the longest format. This isn't to say that he won't become a fine Test cricketer but he now needs to go away and earn another chance. And that is where his problem arises.

Morgan has an IPL contract with Kolkatta for the tournament that runs from April 4 to May 27. That means, if he doesn't change his mind and opt for county cricket, he will miss at least Middlesex's opening five Championship matches and six if Kolkatta reach the knockout stages. It could be he won't play first-class cricket until facing Sussex at Lord's on May 30. That would give him two four-day matches before the English season switches to Friends Life t20 mode for a month.

Last season Morgan's IPL stint didn't cost him the chance to replace Paul Collingwood at No. 6. He returned to the UK on the eve of the England Lions matches against Sri Lanka in Derby and then struck a brutal 193 to secure his place for the Sri Lanka Test series ahead of Ravi Bopara. But the difference then was that he had been the next man in line. A recall from his current position will be a much tougher task.

However, Morgan remains key to England's ambitions in 50 and 20-over cricket. There is a World T20 title to defend in Sri Lanka during September and October and a firing Morgan will make that a much more realistic aim. Six weeks at the IPL will do that part of his game no harm; the competition isn't the root of all evil. And even if he did play early season for Middlesex and scored a stack of runs it wouldn't necessarily mean a quick return to the Test line up. Whoever replaces him in the team, looking likely to be Ravi Bopara at this stage, deserves the same length of time Morgan had.

Bopara, though, will know his chances are running out for a substantial Test career. In a quirk of fate he is now heading to the country where he made his debut in 2007-08 and collected three consecutive ducks. With England set to play two spinners after Monty Panesar's successful return against Pakistan, Bopara's medium pace can add balance to the side - and a little breathing space for James Anderson and Stuart Broad - but ultimately it won't be eight to ten overs of wobbly seam that keeps Bopara in the side.

The rest of England's squad has shown some pragmatic thinking from the selectors for what is a short tour with one focus, that of Test cricket. Samit Patel is the utility player who could play a few roles and it's a significant vote of confidence that he is considered as the reserve batsman. He will never completely fit with Flower's ethos of an international but another advantage of being on this tour is that he'll be training, both on technique and fitness, at the highest intensity.

James Tredwell, while a surprise inclusion, is the perfect tourist. A seasoned county cricketer who knows his game and wouldn't let Andrew Strauss down if summoned to the eleven at a moment's notice. He showed that ability at the World Cup when he took 4 for 48 to win the crunch group match against West Indies. Tredwell has continued to toil away in the domestic game making the most of his talent. It's a lesson Morgan may now want to heed.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mark on March 2, 2012, 10:21 GMT

    @JG, one word of warning on Simon Kerrigan: his reputation is based mainly on one phenomenal match at the end of last season. He was always going to have trouble living up to that performance with the Lions and, you are right, he didn't pull up any trees, but he didn't embarass himself either and the learning experience will stand him in good stead. If he has a good season this summer he is certainly an outside bet for a call up for India. Howver, I wish that Adil Rashid could finally make the breakthrough and have one season when he both bats AND bowls as well as we have seen him do in the past. He would be an ideal all-rounder, but it looks like he is now completely off the radar.

  • John on March 1, 2012, 20:59 GMT

    @Lanky1 on (February 28 2012, 18:04 PM GMT) Didn't Kerrigan play some of the Lions matches? If so I don't remember him taking too many wickets. Not sure about Parry. Keedy is probably a little old for England to introduce to the test side. Also Monty was our best spinner in the Pak series. There would be something very wrong if he is not in the side

  • Dean on March 1, 2012, 20:59 GMT

    @Juiceoftheapple I agree totally with your comments regarding why Morgan got in to the side. AF took a punt on him and it hasn't worked out and I don't see him getting back in. Hildreth can count himself very unlucky he seems to have fallen out the reckoning with at least Bopara, Patel, Bairstow and Taylor now ahead of him and as he turns 28 later this year you have to think his ship has sailed.@Herbert also agree with your comments re JB he clearly looks a talent with a great temperament but needs more time to mature and find consistency. I would certainly keep him in both ltd overs teams for the summer programme and T20 WC and also ensure he gets a decent run of 1st class games with Yorks. If he does well then I think he should probably be on the plane to Ind whether its as the extra batter or as the back up wicketkeeper.

  • John on March 1, 2012, 20:59 GMT

    @GenghisCohen on (February 28 2012, 14:20 PM GMT) - Yes we see what you did there?

  • Samuel on March 1, 2012, 18:08 GMT

    @CricketingStargazer & Herbet - you have to remember that batsmen in the second division have to contend with much greener pitches geared towards promotion-chasing results and the Tiflex ball, so while the quality of attack is lower, the scoring conditions are definitely tougher. Taylor didn't have a great season last year in those conditions, but I still think he's in line for a Test call-up sooner than Bairstow or Stokes; whenever I've seen him in one-day cricket he looks comfortable against spin, and he'll learn a thing or two about batting in seaming conditions playing for Notts at Trent Bridge (although arguably his own side have the strongest seam attack in the division, so he won't be facing them). It'll be interesting to see what happens if Bopara fails again; is Patel a horses-for-courses selection for this tour, or is he genuinely next in line? Is he a better player than Taylor, Bairstow or Stokes? I'm not so sure.

  • Mark on March 1, 2012, 11:00 GMT

    @Herbert, Taylor plays in CC2, which generally means that you face one or two good new ball bowlers, but that the change bowling is a lot less consistent and pressure is generally relaxed, making run-scoring easier. In CC1 most of the attacks have 3 or even 4 Test-class or neat Test-class bowlers, so there is no respite. I'd rate an average of 40 in CC1 as good as one of 50 in CC2. Even though James Taylor is highly rated, the fact that he gets his runs against much weaker attacks has to be taken into account. Same issue with Ravi Bopara: a 200 against the Leicestershire attack looks good on paper, but is it as good as 100 against Durham?

  • Dean on February 29, 2012, 22:03 GMT

    @daviddallan Morgan cannot simply walk back in to the irish team Ed Joyce played his last game for Eng during the WC in April 07 . By 2010 he realized he would never make the test side so asked if he could return to play for Ire and the ICC told him he could but not until Apr 11. Ire then appealed and he was allowed 2 return a couple of months early so he could play in the 2011 WC. At the same time Hamish Marshall had indicated he was willing to play for Ire and was eligible due to being married to an Irish national. HM had played his last game for NZL at the 07 WC but in his case the ICC ruled he had to see out the 4 yrs gap and couldn't play at 2011 WC and has since decided not make himself available for IRE. So if EM isn't picked for Eng again he wouldn't under the current rules be able to play for IRE again until Mar 2016, even if they decide to relax the rules i'm sure it will be sometime before he can wear the green again!

  • Muthuvel on February 29, 2012, 18:08 GMT

    go back to ireland dude, and play IPL..

  • Simon on February 29, 2012, 14:17 GMT

    Agree with Landl. Morgan is an incredible one day player, but test bat he isn't. Test cricket bowling and fielding exploits every weakness in your techinique and shot selection. Morgan was presumbly picked because he took his chance in one dayers, and because Flower wanted a quick scorer. Hildreth missed his chance when he was on fire, Taylor shouldn't miss his chance as well. But very impressed by Bopara particularly against subcontinent teams at the moment.

  • Richard on February 29, 2012, 13:12 GMT

    I'm a bit confused with why Bairstow is being banded about as a name or the test team? He's done a couple of handy late knocks in an ODI and a T20 but hasn't been consistent yet, even though he does have a very impressive 1st Class average. I'd like to see him given a little longer in the ODI side and for Yorkshire to develop. I would have thought Taylor was the next cab off the rank, he's got an impressive 1st Class record, always scores for the Lions, and has captained them. I think he deserves a go over multiple flop Bopara.

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