Morgan's positivity powers England revival
The summer of 2015 will be remembered as one in which the Ashes were regained but it is also becoming a personal triumph for Eoin Morgan. He has the chance on Sunday to lead England to a series victory against the world champions having achieved the same against the runners-up, New Zealand, earlier in the season.
It took one of the most outstanding catches even of Glenn Maxwell's career to prevent Morgan from scoring his second ODI hundred of the season, but his run-a-ball 92 broke the back of a 300-run chase. The victory was the first time England had chased down 300 against Australia, and only the fourth in their history against any team. Given the shellackings that have been handed out to them over the last couple of years, it is a remarkable turnaround. The Australians may be weakened, but four days ago they were also 2-0 up.
"The group of players we have, the attitude they show is outstanding," Morgan said. "I've never had that sort of feeling within a side, in a chase, we were very optimistic about things - it's not experience because we are a young side, it's just a 'let's take it on' attitude which is brilliant."
No one has embodied that attitude better than Morgan himself. He now sits on 599 ODI runs for the season at a strike-rate of 111.13. Only one other England player has ever crossed 600 in a home summer: Andrew Strauss in 2010 when he made 745. In the whole of 2014, a total of 22 ODI innings, Morgan made 560 runs. There was more than just the occasional question as to whether he was surviving on reputation.
"I'm a firm believer that things work in cycles, and when it's in your favour you have to cash in and I'm taking advantage of a little bit of a form," he said.
And Morgan's success this season has come when he has twice had question-marks hanging over his form. At the start of the summer, before facing New Zealand, he was coming off the back of a woeful World Cup in which he made 90 runs in six matches; before the Australia series his domestic runs had also dried up to such an extent that he requested, and was granted, a month's break from domestic duties with Middlesex.
But in the heat of battle, Morgan has responded in thrilling style. It started in the T20 in Cardiff when, in his first innings of any format for a month and coming in with England stalling in the Powerplay, he hammered 74 off 39 balls. That was the vindication to him, and proof to those watching, that he had taken the correct route in removing himself from the game.
His 38 in the first match of this series was not his most fluent innings, but at Lord's he struck 85 off 87 balls - channelling some anger late on at the perceived injustice of Ben Stokes' obstructing-the-field dismissal.
That incident, which prompted Morgan to question Steven Smith, could have led to an unravelling of the series. It is to England's credit, and this stems from Morgan, that they have responded with the two impressive victories at Old Trafford and Headingley. Instead of wallowing in self-pity they have moved on.
The significance of the captain leading from the front has not escaped Morgan, either. "I think it's huge, there's only so many words you can say or ways you can inspire people but the best way is to lead from the front and today I've managed to do that, which is great."
Earlier this year he collected three consecutive ducks against Australia, but that is the exception against an opposition that has often inspired him. During the course of his 92 today he became England's leading run-scorer in ODIs against them. "He plays spin well, he plays pace well," Pat Cummins said succinctly. "When he's going there certainly aren't many options. He'll be a key wicket on Sunday."
This latest innings was Morgan at his calculating best. You could almost see the numbers whirring around in his head, seizing the moment after Stokes' dismissal to ensure Australia were not allowed a foothold by picking out the roof of the stand. When he was cut off - by a catch few other fielders in world could have reached - the asking-rate was a run a ball which meant the lower order were not under undue pressure.
As the Ashes showed, the theory of momentum can be meaningless but England appear the side with the greater zest for the final stage of a long season. "If it does exist, I think it is with us," Morgan said.
A victory in Manchester will mean England ending the season unbeaten across the formats. The drawn Tests series against New Zealand would be the only prize they have had to share. This most ludicrous of summers is set up for the perfect finale.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo