Australia v England, 2nd ODI, Brisbane January 17, 2014

Morgan passes test, England fail theirs

Vithushan Ehantharajah at the Gabba
Eoin Morgan was out-freaked by James Faulkner to extend England's miserable run in Australia

So it was James Faulkner, he of the great snarl and all-round talent, who delayed England's wait for a victory over Australia, with the sort of mugging that leaves you petrified of contemplating daylight, let alone seeing it again.

When Eoin Morgan limped off with with a tweaked calf after 40 overs, Australia still needed 72 runs with just three wickets left. Morgan must have consoled himself that surely he would soon by joined in the dressing room by jubilant England team-mates.

Instead, Morgan must be wondering what more he could have done to secure that elusive win. Even taking into account the hammerings England have experienced on this tour, this must rank as one of the harshest. Alastair Cook looked a twitchy wreck when he was put on the spot after the match, in front of a crowd that had no intentions of dissipating. Perhaps only Morgan has the mental capacity to wash off such a chastening defeat.

The inkblot test, devised by Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach, is perhaps the most renowned indicator of an individual's personality and character traits. While it is used as a measure of a person's psychological state and creativeness, "answers" are subjective - often more is garnered from what isn't said, wilfully or not. If ever there was a definitive Rorschach Test, it was today at the Gabba, in England's 19th over, and only one man passed.

Where Michael Clarke saw a reinforced leg-side field, Morgan saw an opportunity to heave. When Morgan, on 1 at the time, mistimed across the line towards one of those men in the outfield, Clarke saw the opportunity for his first ODI wicket since September 2012. Morgan saw the chance to settle for a single.

As Clarke ran to celebrate with the catcher, Glenn Maxwell, running in from deep midwicket, and the Channel Nine commentary box cleared their throats to laud this latest funky moment, Morgan turned to the umpire to alert him of a fielding violation; Australia had an extra man outside the circle and England's dynamic, ever-savvy No. 5 had sussed it.

That he could fathom something was not quite right, just three balls into his innings, speaks volumes of Morgan's game awareness. We have seen it as dramatically from him once before - during England's victorious ICC World Twenty20 campaign in 2010.

During the group-stage game in Guyana, with Ravi Rampaul looking to stop further hits down the ground after three sixes had been hit in that direction in his third over, Morgan noted that the West Indies seamer had backed himself into a corner. Fine leg, third man and point had been brought into the circle, as everyone else was put out on the boundary. Rampaul's only viable option was a length ball outside off; what followed was a reverse switch hit so outrageous it should have come with a health warning.

This calculated foresight is one part of an all-round game that sees Morgan ranked as one of the most naturally talented players England have ever had the luxury of poaching. Even in defeat, that much has to be relished.

His 105 in Brisbane, after coming in at 78 for 3, was the perfect balance of all things batting. He knuckled down for his first thirty runs, making sure to pick up singles on both sides of the wicket, ensuring Clarke couldn't quite pin him down. He reached his fifty off 70 balls before moving into the fast lane to three figures. The next 52 runs required just 24 more deliveries, featuring two boundaries and five barbaric maximums. Darren Lehmann credited him, for all Faulkner's impact, with playing the innings of the game.

As ever with Morgan, and other sportsmen whose natural talent is forged by imagination and honed by instinct, the temptation is to attribute quantifiable methods to their otherworldliness. But the truth is, Morgan is no student of the game. When he's not playing, he tries his best to keep away from cricket, allotting little if any time out of his schedule to watching. Not much changes even when he is playing.

Coming into the England set-up, he felt compelled to watch every ball. But after a while, he was comfortable enough to get back into his old habits, taking his concentration elsewhere and trusting the judgement of others. It was no developed quirk, and Morgan's reason was quite simple: "Cricket's boring!" If in time he can separate himself from this particular match and look back on what Faulkner brought to the table, he may revise his opinion.

Technically, Morgan is a freak. A slow-motion replay of one of his straight sixes off Faulkner showed a point of contact too close for the ridiculous elevation he managed to impart. The next ball - a full toss - was then flicked over square leg with an over-the-shoulder flourish so nonchalant that suggested he was averting his tie before tucking into some soup, rather than taking England to a total that should have been enough.

His sixth ODI hundred was met with a visceral celebration; England had never before lost when Morgan reached three figures. They have now. Maybe it should have been enough. But no, not on this tour.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Balaji on January 18, 2014, 4:30 GMT

    Why is'nt such an intelligent cricketer not figuring in the England brains trust? I think Andy Flower has to have an explanation for this. England have been outplayed and out-thought in this tour. From what I read, Flower is going to continue, and that is'nt a good idea. He may get lucky in the English summer, with India struggling to find bowlers, but he is too much of a set piece guy. The first time he is confronted by someone who is prepared to do things differently, fight it out and not keel over, he looks bereft. Yes I know Giles is in charge of the England limited overs team, but the team has Flower's imprint on it. Otherwise a struggling Bresnan, who to be fair was short of matchplay, would not have made it into the team. Finn would have been playing.

  • rob on January 18, 2014, 4:10 GMT

    It was a great knock by Morgan. Truly tremendous. The only thing that could have made it even better would have been for him to carry his bat. Another 20-30-40 runs could have come in those last 2 overs. .. Instead of that, England lost 3 wickets for not many. It's all Morgan's fault !! lol, just kidding of course.

    Did anyone else notice how they were bowling to Joss Butler? .. following him on his side trip to square leg. It looks as though he can't play a leg glance to save his life. I'm sure that's not right but he looked to be almost exclusively off side last night. .. If that's true his career can be expected to be very short at this level.

  • vince on January 18, 2014, 3:20 GMT

    "with the sort of mugging that leaves you petrified of contemplating daylight, let alone seeing it again. "


  • Paul on January 17, 2014, 21:08 GMT

    Loved his video commentary, something new on Cricinfo. But what Ehantharajah should have asked is not "what have we ever done to you" but instead " what sin have we committed ?" in his rhetorical whine to Faulkner on behalf of English fans....

    .. as in "what sin has Sehwag [VVS etc] committed to be dropped ?" that some of us Indian fans like to say when our failing heroes stumble further.

    WHAT SIN ????

  • santhosh on January 17, 2014, 17:39 GMT

    Bell, cook, Ballance,KP, Morgan(c) , Bopara, Buttler, Broad, Tredwell, Finn, Anderson is the eng team to win world cup....ROOT may bat at no.6 if they want ,JORDON need improment ,STOKES improve his bowling ,in opening one must aggessive to put pressure on bowlers while chasing big total, another must be watchful inicially and explode toward the lumb and bell will be the openers...

  • Md. Rakibuzzaman on January 17, 2014, 16:14 GMT

    Both KP and Morgan are the victim of being Non English. Both have aggressive and imaginative personality to lead the team but either did not get proper support or the opportunity . Cook may be a good test batsman but he is not a limited over material. His captaincy is hugely unimpressive and dull. He should not be in limited over teams. The unit is still has lot of quality. What they need is proper team selection and a bold leader who can lead by example and inspiration. If England wants to go back to the top they have adjust and fine tune their team according to the utility and capability of players. They should take pragmatic approach in strategy and avoid ego.

  • Aaron on January 17, 2014, 15:31 GMT

    Well to be honest, England were about 20 runs short on that pitch and one of the most concerning things is that never once do you get the feeling that they have finally started changing their tactics i.e playing more aggressively at the top.Herein lies the problem in that two of their top three are woefully out of form.Maybe try Ballance as opener with Bell?? Morgan at three, Bopara at four and Buttler at five??All these guys have the ability to clear the rope and rotate strike as well.We all keep hearing about how far Buttler can strike the ball, but he cannot do it sitting in the dressing room and coming out to bat with hardly any overs left can he?? Also it may be time to drop Cook and make Morgan captain.Also not selecting K.P was foolish to say the least.ENG may also want to look for someone to replace Bresnan because he looks very average.

  • Mainuddin on January 17, 2014, 14:40 GMT

    Morgan or Broad should captain England in ODIs. Cook should be dropped as captain and batsman. England XI for 2015 World Cup: Bell, Hales, KP, Morgan(c), Ballance, Bopara, Buttler, Broad, Tredwell, Finn, Anderson.

  • Miles on January 17, 2014, 13:56 GMT

    @Orangetable, eh? The article clearly says "Ravi Rampaul ... the West Indies seamer". Where's the confusion?

  • Sarthak on January 17, 2014, 13:54 GMT

    Morgan is the right person to be the ODI skipper for England. Cook has shown no imagination in marshaling his resources. Besides to be honest his selection in ODIs shouldn't be guaranteed, he is great in test matches but not a necessity in the ODI team. Morgan's match awareness and his ability to improvise according to the situation are the qualities England need in their captain.

  • No featured comments at the moment.