England v Australia, 1st NatWest ODI, Headingley September 5, 2013

Morgan hopes to propel himself to Ashes


England's decision to rest several senior players from the NatWest Series against Australia was not to everyone's tastes. Michael Vaughan, an Ashes-winning captain, who knows what fatigue after the Ashes is all about, suggested half-seriously that spectators should be offered their money back.

But when Eoin Morgan, who is deputising for Alastair Cook as captain, spoke of "a great energy" in the squad ahead of the first ODI at Headingley and dismissed suggestions that this series is very much a case of After the Lord Mayor's Show, the case for a freshened-up England squad was hard to resist. Rest those who are weary and open up opportunities to others: it is not a bad philosophy.

Those who contended that watching a settled England Test side win the Ashes without much panache at times became a bit of a drag should logically now be beside themselves with joy at the prospect awaiting them. "Young, talented and exciting," is how Morgan described his unproven squad.

Morgan did not pull off the conjuring trick of playing in the IPL and still being selected for England's Ashes Test side, that outside prospect coming to grief because of an operation on a broken finger in late June. Before his matchwinning century in Dublin, he managed only one half-century this season.

But England's batting order for the Ashes still has one spot still up for debate, the No. 6 slot, and there is the opportunity to attempt the conjuring trick all over again. Captain influentially and score a stackful of runs and England will at least have to throw his name in the mix even if Ravi Bopara's greater commitment to the long-form game makes him a more persuasive candidate.

"At this stage of the summer I am taking every innings as an opportunity to score runs and prove what I am capable of doing," he said. "If that opportunity arose at the end of the summer I would be a very happy man."

But happiness is drawn at the moment from other places. "The things I've most enjoyed about captaincy has been handing out caps to debutants," Morgan said. "It's fantastic to see guys being rewarded for a lot of hard work over a number of years by pulling the England shirt on and that makes me smile every day."

England's greatest risk is in temporarily shelving a successful opening partnership, Cook and Ian Bell, that has been at the heart of their one-day approach in the past couple of years. Michael Carberry looks bound to fill one of those spots, even if there will be some disquiet at his nervous debut against Ireland, leaving the difficult decision about whether Jonathan Trott or Kevin Pietersen - or for that matter Joe Root - partners him at the top of the order.

"Kev has opened the batting for England before and done well," Morgan said. "It's certainly an option. He also bats in the middle-order as a very explosive player. He's very versatile in that regard so we'll be looking at both options. The openers are filling big shoes. Cooky and Belly have been a huge part of our success in the past few years. Two new balls makes the role all the more difficult."

Whichever route England take will be disruptive to some degree. Trott has been very settled in the order at No. 3, but perhaps Trott, too, would be more adept at facing the new ball. It is a tough decision.

There are other issues, too. With Morgan and Bopara both making hundreds in Ireland, and Jos Buttler fulfilling keeping duties at No. 7, the easiest way of including Ben Stokes is as a bowling allrounder at No. 8, as happened in Ireland, a role he must contest for at Headingley with Sussex's uncapped Chris Jordan.

The use of Stokes as a third seamer might suit England - even though they looked a bowler light at times in Ireland - but it does not necessarily suit Stokes, whose batting and bowling for Durham carries equal potential even if the bowler-friendly Chester-le-Street pitches do not always encourage such a notion. His Championship hundred in Durham's toppling of the erstwhile leaders, Yorkshire, at Scarborough last week was his first of the season and he made a mature contribution.

It is to be hoped that Stokes gets a run one way or another. He is a much-improved cricketer, a sleeker figure than the player who was sent home in disgrace, along with Kent's Matt Coles, for one too many late-night drinking sessions on a Lions tour of Australia last winter.

Stokes says he now feels entirely "forgiven" by the England management for his England escapades. He promised Durham's director of cricket, Geoff Cook, that he would mend his ways after his Australian excesses and so he has. He is in the England squad while Coles has been loaned to Hampshire for the rest of the season after declining a new contract at Kent.

He remains a straightforward lad, yet to adopt too many trappings of an England player, and took a simple pleasure in tweeting a picture of himself and some of his Durham team-mates tucking into a celebratory Chinese takeaway after their Scarborough victory. Such is the efficiency of England's backroom staff that he will probably have received an analysis of the meal since then, complete with a printout of its calorific content, energy quotient and restful sleep maximisation percentage.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • HashRulz on September 7, 2013, 13:49 GMT

    there are vain of players suitabla for 6th test place.bopara,J Taylor,baiirstwo,morgan... I think James Taylor is the best selection.but morgan also can prove that.He is a fine odi & t2o player

  • VillageBlacksmith on September 7, 2013, 9:00 GMT

    @Charlie101... Cdnt agree more... The Root experiment has not worked, an early nick off in every innings, inc the 180... Root was ''problem solved'' @ 6 and Compo is a better opener esp on aussie pitches... Intense yes, but he will calm down as he plays more and Root will score many more tons returned to 6.. And yes, I believe they shdv played Tremlett @ The Oval and def not Kezza, esp after his ordinary showing in the Lions match.. Morgan is not a test player, neither is Bopara... Taylor and JB as backup for me

  • Iddo555 on September 6, 2013, 13:00 GMT

    The problem for both Morgan and Bopara is that they have had a chance in test cricket and not taken it. Both have very average test and first class records and both have not done particularly well in first class cricket this year. The selectors have moved on from both as far as test cricket is concerned, the likes of Taylor, Ballance, Bairstow, Woakes and Stokes will be fighting it out for the number 6 spot in the test team as that is the only spot up for grabs

  • dummy4fb on September 6, 2013, 12:53 GMT

    Chris Jordan and Jamie Overton? Is this an England E Team or what? Overton has an economy of 6.15 in List A!!!

  • dummy4fb on September 6, 2013, 12:49 GMT

    Still no runs for Luke Wright and Jos Buttler in this game then! Just like I thought! Hehe.

  • Nutcutlet on September 6, 2013, 12:19 GMT

    @ Jono Makim on (September 6, 2013, 11:09 GMT. You are absolutely right. It's a totally misleading headline & therefore I must apologise to anyone who was incensed by my critical comment about Eoin Morgan. It's my fault for not checking precisely what EM actually is reported as saying - and discounting the headline which really ought to be changed. *'Young, talented and exciting,' says proud Morgan * would do, perhaps.

  • CapitalMarkets on September 6, 2013, 12:18 GMT

    Agree with @RodStark that Bopara should go to Australia. Actually think that his well publicised family difficulties have prevented us from seeing the best of him so far. He certainly did wilt under pressure as a younger man but the ODI against Ireland shows that he has matured and acquired the mental toughness necessary to compete in Australia. I didn't think that Bairstow looked particularly permanent in the Ashes series. I also thought that, having won the Ashes, they should have asked for a really quick wicket at the Oval and played Tremlett or Onions or given a debut to Rankin or one of the younger strike bowlers in a five man attack. Slow bowlers aren't going to win a test series in Australia. As far as Bopara being a stock bowler, what's wrong with that? If he keeps it tight, like Watson did for Australia and Gayle does for West Indies, that's fine. There have been plenty of batsmen who operated usefully down the years. Bill Edrich, D'Oliveira and Barrington come to mind.

  • CapitalMarkets on September 6, 2013, 11:48 GMT

    I agree wholeheartedly with @Nutcutlet about Morgan's effective choice of IPL over county / test crciket but it is hard not to have a great deal of sympathy with him. If Zimbabwe are good enough for full test status, then Ireland certainly is. It seems very unfair that by the time that this is recognised by the authorities, Morgan's best years will be behind him. It's a bit like Richards, G Pollock and Barlow for South Africa, except it seems so unnecessary because whatever troubles Ireland have had, they haven't had apartheid. We are repeatedly told that you can't play every format all the time, unless you are called Clarke and have a suspect back.

  • dummy4fb on September 6, 2013, 11:09 GMT

    That FC average of 34 might just hold you back a bit old son! I'd have thought that Taylor, Ballance and perhaps Compton may be there or thereabouts but Morgan?!

    @R_U_4_REAL_NICK, nice to see you continue to pigeon hole Warner!

    @Nutcutlet, in fairness to Morgan I can't really see him quoted as saying he should be in the squad? Yet another shoddy headline I think.

  • siddhartha87 on September 6, 2013, 9:56 GMT

    England experiments too much ODIs.They must need a destructive opener .Cook,Bell and Trott can't win u too many matches.I guess England will fail to reach the final four for the 6th consecutive in 2015 wc

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