Captain Morgan in bullish mood for homecoming

 

Two Irishmen have captained England in international cricket. The feeling is that Eoin Morgan may well prove more durable than either Sir Timothy Carew O'Brien or Frederick Fane.

Morgan will lead England for the first time in a one-day international today, against the country of his birth for whom he played 23 times. He talked about it in his typical manner yesterday: sensible, pragmatic, utterly confident. "I take risks as a batsman," he said, "so I suppose I'm bound to take some as a captain."

Morgan sees his background as irrelevant. From the age of 14, such was his talent and such the dearth then of cricketing opportunity in Ireland, he knew his future lay with England.

O'Brien and Fane were both stand-in captains on England tours of South Africa, respectively in 1896 and 1909. In some ways, this is more testing for Morgan. Ireland will certainly let him know where he comes from. "I should think there will be some banter as there has been in the past. I'm not bothered so much by it now," he said.

Morgan missed Irish cricket's greatest hour. Injury forced him to sit out the World Cup match between the sides in Bangalore last February when Ireland, from 111 for 5, chased down a target of 327. That was entirely due to a unique innings from Kevin O'Brien, who made 113 from 63 balls.

He does not expect to repeat the feat. "If I play half as well, I'll be happy," he said. What Ireland are not wholly happy about is England's insistence on starting the match at 10.15am because of their need, or desire, to make a quick getaway after the match, or their decision to field a second-string team. But they understand they are being shoehorned in.

"If I was them, I'd do the same," said Ireland's coach, Phil Simmons. The game in Ireland might be on a huge upswing but it is relative. In Clontarf Cricket Club yesterday the adverts for Guinness were accompanied by the slogan: "This is rugby country." England visit Ireland for a warm-up match before the Rugby World Cup this Saturday; it is the second of the All-Ireland Gaelic football semi-finals this Sunday. Not even an Ireland victory today will knock them off the back pages.

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