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 T20 World Cup – Eoin Morgan

T20 World Cup – Eoin Morgan


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England captain “absolutely delighted” after defending 163 against Sri Lanka

Eoin Morgan was nowhere near his fluent best in Sharjah on Monday night. On a slow pitch with low bounce – at least until the dew had its say – he eked out nine runs off the first 20 balls he faced, and his eventual 40 off 36 was his slowest innings above 30 in an England shirt.

But it was also his third-highest score in 37 T20 hits this year, and his partnership of 112 with Jos Buttler dragged England to 163, a total they managed to defend in spite of a wet ball and an injury to Tymal Mills. Bearing in mind the demands of conditions during the first innings, England will hope that it signals a long-awaited run to batting form from their captain ahead of the T20 World Cup’s knockout stages.

“You sort of always have to believe because if you don’t believe, nobody else will,” Morgan said of his first score above 20 in two-and-a-half months. “I always do. Today was a bit of a tougher test. It was nice to be out there with one of my best mates enjoying ourselves – although it was quite tough – but just to get a partnership going and put something on the board to try and defend.

“The guys in the powerplay seemed to hit [the ball] lower on their bat a lot. Even Jos, who’s in unbelievable form, really did find it unbelievably tough and when I got to the wicket he talked about just getting something going. And even he struggled to rotate the strike. So [it was about] taking in all that information and realising how tough it is and believing it will get better or you will get a bad ball, even if you don’t you’re still doing the right thing and trusting the process.

“We talked about it being as hard as we’d faced just to get the ball away, never mind looking for boundaries. A normal risk-taking shot would have been sweeps, but we didn’t feel sweeps were on with the guys they were bowling and the way the wicket didn’t really bounce at that time, and we’re thankful that we just hung in and trusted in our experience, even in really quiet overs. You know, [it was] shocking really, but we just had nowhere to go, literally nothing to do, and it was better than just slogging it up in the air.

“But it was nice being at the other end when he started getting going: he really is unbelievable. [It was] Jos being Jos. From the far end just watching him battle – not as hard as I did – but just battle, and then find rhythm after he took a couple of risks [which] made Sri Lanka bowl differently and then that worked in our favour. But without that absolutely unbelievable knock we’d have been nowhere.”

Buttler suggested in his post-match press conference that Morgan’s lean run with the bat had been in part due to the volatility of his role as a finisher. “I think the position he bats in, in T20 cricket, forms a bit of a myth,” he said. But Morgan played down any suggestions that he had looked like his old self towards the end of his innings, after carving Lahiru Kumara and Wanindu Hasaranga for six over wide long-off and hooking Dushmantha Chameera onto the roof.

“Me? No, no,” he said. “This ground is very challenging. Maybe if I’d have batted second I might have hit the middle of the bat a bit more but we’ve played games here the last month where coming in, because the ball’s older, a bit darker and the bounce is really low, it’s hard to get going and be free-flowing. Even the guys who came in at the end there felt the same. So the value in that partnership to try and take it longer is obviously worth it as well.

“[My acceleration] was after facing a lot of balls and they were due to bowl a bad one. But it’s good, it’s runs on the board, it’s a contribution to winning the game and batting with one of my best mates as well.”

“I think today he showed an immense amount of character,” Buttler said. “He was very patient. He soaked up balls and gave himself enough time to get us to conditions, and we managed to put together a great partnership. It’s never easy coming in when you’ve lost wickets early on and there’s plenty of the game to go, but I think he certainly enjoyed getting a few out of the middle today and we’re all delighted when we see him play that way.

“Myself and Morgs, we’ve played quite a few games now. We just tried to soak up the pressure and build a partnership. We were finding it tricky, and generally if you’re finding it hard work, the guys behind you would probably find it hard work as well, so we didn’t panic; we allowed ourselves time and tried to take the options against the bowlers we felt more comfortable against, and at the nets we felt more comfortable against, with one shorter side on the ground.”

England’s win was Morgan’s 43rd as a captain in T20 internationals (including Super Overs), taking him clear of Asghar Afghan’s record, and some rare signs of emotion in the field demonstrated his relief at managing to defend a score in a tournament where that has been a challenge. “I’m absolutely delighted,” he said. “We’re having fun. I might not look like it, but yeah, we are.”

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98



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