Morgan’s Magic and Opening Woes

3 03 2010

Morgan showing off his reverse sweep

Over recent years, England have had one or two players come through and look like they are the real deal right from the off. Yesterday Eoin Morgan confirmed, after showing several glimpses of his capabilities since his debut last Summer, that he was the next in this particular line although true to recent form, he is also only English through qualification!

Morgan is not the first and certainly will not be the last Irishman to qualify for England (unless Ireland’s unlikely test match status dream is realised), but is already looking like the best. Yesterday he rescued England from what would have been an ignominious defeat to current wooden spoon holders Bangladesh, by scoring a perfectly paced 110 off  104 balls. Admittedly he enjoyed a little luck early on with a couple of LBW shouts being turned down, which on another day may have been given, yet he took advantage and thereafter played a flawless innings.

With Morgan it is the unorthodox nature and sheer variety of his shots which stand out initially, although truth be told he is equally adept hitting straight and conventionally down the ground. Importantly he is also not just a nurdler in the Neil Fairbrother mode (good at that though he is), but is also able to hit enormously powerfully. During the recent one day series in South Africa (we think it was at Centurion Park) he hit one of the biggest sixes we have ever seen, hooking Dale Steyn out of the ground and into the roof of the building next to it.

Above all, however, he appears to be a calm player, comfortable in big match situations. We realise that this game was against Bangladesh and to any doubters might not have been a stringent enough test to be hailing England’s next great player. Yet he has finished several games, both ODI and 20/20, in his short England career already and has earned comparisons with Australia’s master finisher Michael Bevan.

For our money at the Compulsive Hooker, we would like to see him follow the Marcus Trescothick route in to the test team. Remember when the Somerset opener was picked he was averaging less than 35 in first class cricket (Morgan averages 36 with 6 hundred’s) and was called into the one day series against Zimbabwe having impressed Duncan Fletcher with his temperament. He never looked back and with Morgan’s status as a talented, flexible and big game player confirmed yesterday, we want him added to the test squad and making his début sooner rather than later.

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What seems to be England’s 43rd different opening pair in the past year are also struggling although not in the way we expected. Cook has belied his reputation and scored a couple of valuable 60’s in the past two games, indeed he even hit a six yesterday – an event which was deemed more unlikely than the raising of the Titanic until yesterday. At the other end Kieswetter, who had been hailed as the answer to England’s search for a powerful opening batsmen, failed for the second time in 2 games. Indeed his shot to get out yesterday was reminiscent of Denly’s dismissal in the recent 20/20 against Pakistan, albeit he was caught at slip rather than bowled, as he advanced down the track trying to force the pace.

All is not lost however as he does appear to be a lucky batsman and this is not to be underrated one little bit. There are players who never appear to be dropped and others that seem to be giving catching practise yet don’t get out. Kieswetter has been dropped in every innings he has played so far for England or England Lions (in his 143 against the Board XI he was dropped a scarcely creditable 5 times) and usually he has capitalised. He has probably earned a couple more games at the top of the order without runs, but he will be aware that with Denly, Lumb and the unlucky Trott in the wings, not to mention Strauss, he has to score runs soon to nail down his place in the side.

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Bangladesh showed an admirable level of fight and almost pulled off what would have been a historic and first win for them. It is surely only a matter of time before they start winning regularly and on this form we would back them against the West Indies, Zimbabwe and probably Pakistan. Jamie Siddon’s, the Bangladeshi coach, has been talking about the need for regular ‘performances’, as with these will start coming wins.

Shakib Al Hasan underlined his status as a world class bowler yesterday with a superb spell including 2 maidens and 3 wickets, and Rahim and Kayes also underlined their promise. Factor in Shakib’s ability and burgeoning record with the bat as well, Iqbal and Mahmudullah’s recent form and suddenly you have an outfit which whilst still prone to catastrophic collapses, should run England closer than they think or will be comfortable with in the test series.

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