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.

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