Morgan builds calm century to dig England out of the mire

England 331-4 v Pakistan: Left-hander shines in recored partnership with Collingwood to punish erratic Pakistan
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Some people find it difficult to transfer skills from one form of the game to the other. Some people thought that applied to Eoin Morgan. Some people were wrong.

With a serenity and authority that suggested that he is at home in any crease at any time, the Irish boulevardier scored 125 not out in his third Test match yesterday, England's first of the series against Pakistan. He reached his hundred with a straight six which went a long way. There is a long way to go, too, before Morgan makes it as a substantial Test batsman but this innings bore sufficient hallmarks of class to suggest that he will make it every step of the way.

It was the more impressive for being made in dire circumstances. England were 118 for 4 and their first innings was in danger of unravelling before the tourists' two most imposing seamers when Morgan strode calmly to the middle. Together with Paul Collingwood, for whom this was a perfectly normal day at the office ("How did the day go dear?" "Oh, nothing special, darling, just pulled England out of another deep hole.") he shared an unbroken partnership of 213 for the fifth wicket, a record for England against Pakistan.

A total of 331 for 4 represented a position of huge superiority for England. The ball will probably swing all match, particularly if the skies stay bright but cloudy as they did yesterday, and the pitch has sufficient cracks to offer any self-respecting spinner cause to be glad he plies such a trade. It was turning soon after lunch.

Morgan already cuts a mighty figure in the shorter forms of the game. He has become a key batsman, maybe the key batsman, in England's order since last autumn. He can make big runs and he can make them with the creativity of a true artist when the going might demand something altogether more prosaic.

There was the odd play and miss at the start of his innings, but then playing and missing was the order of the day. Morgan was never ruffled, rarely troubled. When he was five and edged the formidable Mohammad Aamer behind he might have been out.

But the Pakistan appeal rightly went to the third umpire – though not as part of the Decision Review System which was being used in England for the first time, but simply because of good old-fashioned commonsense checking – it was clear the ball had fallen short of Kamran Akmal's gloves. On 78 Morgan himself asked for an official referral when he was given out leg before to Danish Kaneria and replays showed the ball was spinning well past the leg stump.

These were mere blips on the way to his maiden Test century. As he has so often in the one-day arena he essayed the scene, took his time, recognised there was no need to rush. He could have been going for a stroll in the Dublin hills. But when he started, he started. At one stage on his way to 50, he struck six fours in 12 balls, the last a brutal, electrifyingly quick reverse sweep.

When a fuss was being made in the winter about Morgan's rapid advance in the one-day game, Andy Flower, England's coach, was under media pressure to declare him ready for Tests. Flower, it can now be seen, played a shrewd hand, suggesting that Morgan must return to Middlesex and score runs in the County Championship. Either he knew what he intended, or he changed his mind and either way he was right.

Collingwood was less stylish – Collingwood is less stylish than a porkpie hat – but this position was meat and drink for his soul. He merely accumulated, punched anything on his legs (and there was too much) to midwicket and jabbed anything short outside off through the covers. He might, nay should, have been stumped on 48 when Kamran Akmal fluffed an easy stumping off Danish Kaneria, a well-flighted, regulation leg break coming to him at comfortable height.

It was a bad day for Akmal, and partly because of that eventually a bad day for his team. In the fifth over of the morning with the ball whizzing about and England playing their shots, the wicketkeeper dropped Andrew Strauss off a beauty from Aamer, who may be the most dangerous teenager in the world – at anything.

There was still time for Pakistan to make inroads into England's innings but dispatching the captain then might have had untold consequences. As it was, following the departure of Alastair Cook, caught at first slip off Aamer, Strauss stayed until just before lunch. The teenage sensation came back for a second spell and with his fourth ball produced a lifter that swung away and demanded to be played. Strauss was annoyed but could consider himself unfortunate that Kamran held the chance.

Pakistan used eight bowlers but their attack was held together by Aamer and Mohammad Asif. The third seamer, Umar Gul, so often the master of reverse swing, had difficulty with his delivery stride and kept no-balling, Kaneria's leg-spin was not probing enough.

But England were in trouble after lunch when Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen were out in successive overs. Trott had seemed reasonably settled though he flirted with the DRS, Pietersen anything but, though he, too, was reprieved twice.

Pietersen had not had an innings of any kind since 3 July, although being the man he is he appears to have spent most of his waking hours in the nets. It was not enough, and on reflection perhaps a club game here or there might have helped. It used to work for Geoff Boycott. Australian Test batamen are never fearful of a grade game if time and inclination allow.

It was almost as if Pietersen was being put out of his misery when Asif bowled him off an inside edge. He may become again the player he once was but there is scant sign of it at present. There are technical problems to address – he is playing across his front pad – and his mind will be playing tricks too. Where are those runs?

Trott was eventually leg before, the DRS failing to give him a further stay of execution. After that it was all England.

Trent Bridge scoreboard

First day of five: England have scored 331 runs for four wickets; England won toss

England: First Innings

*A J Strauss c Akmal b Aamer 45, 75 balls 6 fours

A N Cook c Farhat b Aamer 8, 26 balls 1 four

I J L Trott lbw b Aamer 38, 67 balls 5 fours

K P Pietersen b Asif 9, 29 balls 2 fours

P D Collingwood not out 81, 168 balls 11 fours

E J G Morgan not out 125, 182 balls 18 fours 1 six

Extras (b 5, lb 8, w 5, nb 7) 25

Total (4 wkts, 90 overs) 331

Fall 1-42 (Cook), 2-93 (Strauss), 3-116 (Pietersen), 4-118 (Trott).

To bat †M J Prior, G P Swann, S C J Broad, J M Anderson, S T Finn.

Bowling M Aamer 19-4-39-3 (w1)(6-1-14-1, 7-2-11-2, 3-1-7-0, 3-0-7-0), M Asif 20-6-65-1 (5-2-22-0, 2-0-5-0, 7-3-14-1, 4-1-12-0, 2-0-12-0), U Gul 16-3-58-0 (nb5)(6-1-23-0, 4-2-16-0, 4-0-16-0, 2-0-3-0), D Kaneria 21-0-100-0 (nb2)(4-0-20-0, 5-0-27-0, 3-0-11-0, 9-0-41-0), S Malik 11-2-39-0 (1-0-5-0, 8-2-23-0, 2-0-11-0), A Ali 1-0-9-0 (one spell). U Amin 1-0-3-0 (one spell), I Farhat 1-0-5-0 (one spell).

Progress 50 13.4 overs, 100 25.4 overs, Lunch 103-2 (J Trott 35, K Pietersen 1) 27 overs, 150 45.1 overs, Tea 190-4 (P Collingwood 27, E Morgan 44) 55 overs, 200 58.1 overs, 250 71.5 overs, 300 81.2 overs. Morgan 50 81 balls, 10 fours. Morgan 100 151 balls, 16 fours, 1 six. Collingwood 50 114 balls, 6 fours.

Pakistan *Salman Butt, Imran Farhat, Azhar Ali, Umar Amin, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik, †Kamran Akmal, Mohammad Aamer, Umar Gul, Danish Kaneria, Mohammad Asif.

Umpires E A R de Silva (Sri Lanka) & A L Hill (NZ).