12 August 2020 06:37 PM



148 off 71 Balls! Eoin Morgan’s Whole Career is Understated

Morgan is a key component of the limited-overs side he envisioned and groomed

England's World T20 winning campaign in 2010 had a scintillating moment that perhaps snuck under the radar despite a video of the incident doing the rounds at the time. In the match against the West Indies, Eoin Morgan would reverse paddle Ravi Rampaul over third man and into the boundary ropes. The flair and cheek the immigrant from Ireland exhibited in that tournament is perhaps understated.

Morgan's whole career is in fact understated.

He recently became the first England player to have played 200 ODIs. This isn't a significant number – that Morgan was England's first to 200 ODIs speaks volumes about why the nation has underperformed in the format.

This new age English limited-overs team plays a brand of cricket that Morgan envisioned around the time England's last World Cup campaign had foundered.

“It’s probably best to start at the 2015 World Cup and actually what came out of it. I think in essence – extremely poor performance. And I think we got what we deserved in many ways, because we weren’t competing with the best in the world at the time, we were playing a brand of cricket that was dated, and we weren’t adapting to any trends that had happened in the six to eight months leading into that 2015 World Cup,” Morgan said in an interview with the Telegraph earlier this year.

It clearly cost England but versatility is Morgan's forte, evident in how he brought to life his role in the team’s current limited-overs lineup, which has various levels of attacking modes.

We talk about the marauding opening pair which includes Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow. We talk about Joe Root quite enough. Ben Stokes makes us talk about him and the world raves about Jos Buttler. Quietly tucked in the midst of this barbaric batting lineup is Eoin Morgan, hidden, cosy, and impactful in his own unique way.

He could come out to bat with Buttler going bonkers and play percentage cricket to keep the big hitter on strike, while ensuring wickets were saved for the latter half of the innings. Or, he could come out and play a knock like the one at Manchester on Tuesday against Afghanistan.

It was a mild start on Tuesday by England's usual standards. With Afghanistan touted to choke the batsmen with spin, Bairstow got off to a rather unusual start. And with no Roy to accelerate the innings seemed devoid of momentum – until Morgan walked in at the fall of the second wicket.

It was the 30th over, and the conventional game plan would have been to use his time with Root to build a platform for Buttler and Stokes to take over. But Morgan wasn't in the mood for that. The Afghanistan spinners had been less than impressive in this tournament so far, and he sensed an opportunity to show the world that England have a third line of attack.

A standalone force in the middle order, Morgan took little time to get going. The first of his 17 sixes came off Gulbadin Naib – a short arm jab over midwicket off a free hit. He followed it up next ball by stepping out to loft Naib down the ground for another six.

He got a sighter from Rashid Khan first over, and recognising that Khan was neither getting enough purchase out of the wicket nor bowling stringent lines, Morgan slammed him for 18 in his next over with two sixes and a four.

His half-century came up in 36 balls, after which the fury unleashed itself in sensational fashion. The skipper raced to his ton in just 21 deliveries, with six sixes coming in this period of play. He was brutal to the spinners who were spraying the ball around, and with Root playing anchor from one end, Morgan decided to continue with what was working.

He slammed Rashid for a further three sixes in the 45th over, and after four more sixes in the next - seven - balls he faced, Morgan departed for a blinding 148 from 71 balls, caught at long off hitting a slow one from Naib. Not only had he thwarted the Afghanistan bowling attack but dismantled the notion that England, despite all their batting firepower, were overly reliant on Buttler for those 300-plus totals.

Morgan's hundred (off 57 balls) is the fourth fastest ton at a World Cup. His 17 sixes will be a World Cup record and are also the most by any England player in ODIs. Already he has 22 sixes in this World Cup, equalling the most England had hit in any World Cup prior.

The third line of attack in England's arsenal is a bullish, unstoppable force. The authority with which he took apart the Afghanistan fielding side only proves that England are stronger than ever in their bid for the title of World Cup champions.

(Cover Photograph AP)

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