2019 Cricket World Cup, Game 24, Afghanistan v EnglandContinue reading
The rarely-sighted White-Clothed Morgan was thought to have been extinct, but there are now hopes that it could return to its habitat at Lord’s as early as this summer.
In a week in which Adil Rashid and Alex Hales both pressed pause on their first-class careers, Morgan has once again shown himself to be one step ahead of the crowd.
When Rashid announced his decision, we floated the idea that for all the talk of focusing and specialising, first-class cricket might actually provide important base training on which short format cricketers can build.
Morgan agrees. Speaking to Sky Sports, he said he was looking to play in the County Championship this season.
“The reason I’ve always worked trying to play red ball cricket is my technique isn’t very good and I always struggle my first 20 balls and I’m a slow starter.
“Striving to play red ball cricket always made me work on my technique a little bit more. My technique’s normally okay [against the red ball] and I tend to hit it further and play it later.
“That’s why I’ve been hesitant to make a decision [like Rashid’s]. It’s not been having aspiration to play Test cricket – I don’t.”
If others take a similar view, this would be good news for the County Championship and consequently the Test team. However, they should probably still trim the competition by a few matches to persuade the likes of Hales and Rashid that the workload would be productive and not counterproductive.
“Even more than making it in Twenty20 or 50‑over cricket my real ambition has been to become a Test player,” said Eoin Morgan when England first gave him a shot at the five-day stuff.
After 16 Tests and two hundreds, it seems highly unlikely they’ll give him another go, but the ICC’s latest proposals would see Ireland become a Test nation. The country of his birth would surely give him a game, no?
A certain part of us would love to see Morgan up sticks and head home purely to see how forceful and obnoxious the “SEE! SEE! WE TOLD YOU HE WAS A TRAITOR!” response would be in those parts of the media that like to characterise him as a kind of national-anthem-scorning pseudo-Pietersen.
The truth is Ireland’s Test status wouldn’t be for another couple of years, even if it happens, and Morgan currently seems rather heavy-in with leading England’s short format sides anyway. A career-minded cricketer, you can’t really imagine him walking away from his current job.
This might be a possibility further down the line though. If nothing else, a Test match between England and an Ireland side led by a cold-eyed Morgan furious about media criticism would surely be well-attended. Even if they played it in April. Which they would.
Stuart Broad wants to state his case for inclusion in England’s one-day side. Unfortunately for him, this is difficult as he doesn’t actually play one-day cricket. According to Ali Martin, Broad’s played one 50-over game for Nottinghamshire in the last 18 months.
The opposite applies to Jos Buttler, who is keen to return to the Test side. He somehow needs to make red ball runs to get back in, but the only way we can see that happening is if he paints one ahead of a limited overs game.
Then there’s Eoin Morgan, who’s basically just given up – he says he’s averaged three or four first-class games a year for the past six years and can’t see that changing. That’s not actually a huge amount more than we play and it’s a problem that’s doubtless compounded by being dismissed for single figure scores in the first couple of matches while he tries to remember what’s what.
Other than pigeons, few voluntarily enter pigeonholes. We’ve long had players retiring from one format to prolong their lifespan in another, but the specialist threshold seems to have shifted in recent times. If players in their prime are not exactly being forced to choose, then they are at least allowing themselves to be funnelled down a particular path because it’s so much bloody effort to do anything other than that.
The impact of this on fans is significant and appalling: it means we have to try and remember more cricketers. If we were interested in paying attention and remembering lots of things, we’d have gone and got a law qualification or something.
Ben Stokes’ coolly outmanoevred Carlos Brathwaite at the death. Had the West Indian launched his attack earlier in the match, he could have hit six sixes in an over. As it was, he was denied by winning the World T20 after just four balls. Stokes is doubtless delighted.
There was no required rate when England batted, but there was certainly a desired rate. Samuel Badree’s opening salvo (2-16 off four) meant that they were always behind the desired rate. A few extra risks perhaps ensued.
There’s actually a case for saying that Eoin Morgan’s golden duck in the semi-final was a better innings than his 12-ball effort in the final. Facing for a tenth of England’s innings, Morgan contributed just five runs. In some respects it’s hard to blame him being as England were 8-2 when he came in, but in other, more meaningful respects, it also wasn’t good enough. Those who followed him were forced into trying to pick up the slack.
Contrast Morgan’s innings with that of Joe Root, who calmly and seemingly effortlessly rebuilt while scoring at a rate of 150 runs per hundred balls. That’s what was needed. No, it’s not easy to do, but this is the final of a world tournament. It’s about being the best.
England’s score apparently fell short of ‘par’. For most of their innings, West Indies also didn’t look like achieving such a thing. Despite this, the commentators continued talking about it, as if it were of any relevance whatsoever. Maybe if the teams were playing against some sort of generic cyborg side whose results were generated by a computer before the match, it would have made sense. But they weren’t. They were playing each other.
There’s definitely a case for bowling your five shittest bowlers in the most high pressure matches. There is nothing harder for a professional batsman to time than loopy filth.
Then there’s the ego aspect. If you open the bowling with Joe Root, for example, there is almost an obligation to get after him lest England fiddle through a couple of economical overs. And if you’re going to play on someone’s ego, pick your target carefully. Chris Gayle did what was expected of him. Johnson Charles was a bonus.
But it wasn’t really enough. Even when it got down to 19 needed from the final over, 19 didn’t seem all that large a number – although we couldn’t really have imagined how small it would prove to be. Carlos Brathwaite produced what must rank as the most brutally clinical finish under unimaginable pressure.
The best way to win Twenty20 matches is to bat slowly and patiently, building a platform, before having a great big slog at the end. Turns out England were ahead of the game all that time. And now they’re behind again.
No, the truth is there’s no secret to Twenty20. The trick, really, is to play well no matter what your strategy.
Remember when Eoin Morgan was the exciting one. Remember how you used to shout “Morgan’s in!” when he came to the crease and how the person you were shouting to used to respond: “I don’t care. I don’t like cricket.”
Remember how you used to flaunt your knowledge by telling everyone within earshot that those miraculous rubber-wristed shots were down to Morgan’s background in hurling. Remember how, shortly after, you use to flaunt your knowledge by telling everyone that actually, he didn’t play those shots because of hurling, because he never really played the game.
Good times. Great memories. Different times. Old memories.
Nowadays Morgan’s a middle-order rock. He’s not the flamboyant one. He’s the guy who’ll hold things together with a nuggetty 45 off 38 balls while the guy at the other end switch-hits reverse-ramp maximums and canes it to cow corner.
Reverse sweeps are passé. Morgan’s an anachronism. Sometimes, if you squint quite a bit, it even looks like he’s smoking a pipe and wearing a monocle when he’s walking out to bat, as if he’s just set down his glass of port and risen from a Chesterfield wingback armchair.
We’re not even sure that he has any tattoos. Maybe he does, somewhere – but not so many that he looks like a guy who’s going to try and sell you some stilton in a canalside pub in some dark corner of the Midlands.
He doesn’t even keep wicket. Just think about that. Here’s a guy playing short format cricket in 2015 who doesn’t bowl and who also doesn’t keep wicket. Of course he’s the captain – they had to give him something to do other than bat.
WiFi on aeroplanes, paleo diets and Eoin Morgan taking second, third or fourth billing in an England one-day batting line-up. The modern world is a strange and unsettling place.