Morgan fireworks set England up for valuable victory
England 272-5 Australia 257-9 (England win by 15 runs)
Any chance Australia had of squeezing out a victory here last night effectively went in the 43rd over of their pursuit when Michael Clarke missed a low full toss from Tim Bresnan and was hit plumb in front. The captain had got to 61 off 67 balls and while he was there the tourists always had a fighting chance of preserving their remarkable record at headquarters.
Australians have always worshipped Lord's. They insist on honouring its place in history and generally show it by refusing to be defeated there.
It took 75 years from 1934 for them to lose a Test match at the ground, which they finally did in 2009, and the last time they were beaten in a one-day international had been in 1997, since when they had won eight and tied one.
This alone made it pretty clear they were not about to go easily, if at all, but then this is a different Australia and more pertinently perhaps a different England, who needed every one of their 272 for 5 yesterday in the first match of five in this series.
That the total was so handsome was because of a scintillating innings from Eoin Morgan, whose unbeaten 89 from 63 balls contained plenty, though not all, of his usual tricks and was perfectly paced.
The tourists set about their chase vigorously but, like so many teams before them against England at home in recent years, were gradually worn down by relentlessly accurate and skilful bowling. If some of them were unlucky it was usually because they were trying to break the shackles.
Had David Warner, their counter-punching opener, crude in execution but thrillingly effective, stayed around for even five more overs it might have been a formality. But he became a second victim in three balls for Jimmy Anderson and the untimely fall of wickets began to impede the pursuit. Fittingly the bowlers shared out the final spoils with two apiece for Anderson, Bresnan, Steven Finn and Stuart Broad.
Morgan has had a quiet time of it lately. His struggles in Test cricket which led to his being dropped might have begun to invade his limited-overs form. He had hardly been seen this summer but, boy, was he required yesterday and, boy, did he deliver.
In full flow there is no more splendid or assured sight in limited-overs cricket in the world. Watching him go through the gears, knowing instinctively when he had to change up, it seemed a ludicrous oversight on the part of the Kolkata Knight Riders not to allow him a place in any of their games in the IPL this year, though they might defend their decision by pointing out that they did win the thing.
Morgan arrived with barely 20 overs of England's innings remaining. The early part of the day had been played under heavy cloud cover and interrupted by occasional bouts of drizzle, making batting difficult and unpleasant. England would have considered 250 to be dreamland at that stage.
In his fallow period, Morgan appeared to alter his stance at the crease, so that his bottom was almost touching the ground as if he were staging a sit-in at the crease – perhaps, who knows, against the iniquities of the central contracts system. He claimed it was so that power can surge through his legs and up his body when he plays a stroke of intent, but it was beginning to look plain daft, not to say uncomfortable.
He was hardly guardsman-straight yesterday but there was at least daylight between backside and ground. He did what he usually does, surveying the scene while keeping the board ticking over. But when he decided it was time to go, he went.
England scored 83 runs from their last 10 overs, 54 from the last five. Three balls spanning the 46th and 47th overs brought successive sixes for Morgan, two of them little more than brutal short-arm jabs to full-length balls from Brett Lee, the third a fierce pick-up over square leg.
It made England's total challenging rather than respectable, and may have surprised Clarke, leading for the first time here. He was a busy captain throughout, regularly manoeuvring his five bowlers, setting attacking fields to encourage them when least expected and making sure that he let the batsmen know what he perceived to be their strengths and weaknesses.
At one point he had seven players guarding the off side against Jonathan Trott and did not mind having slips well past the point where they have normally been posted to the country. It was bright, aggressive cricket.
There was an air of expectancy about the tyro fast bowler Pat Cummins, a large, athletic 19-year-old able to deliver at 90mph. He did not disappoint and the ball was propelled at the promised speed. If he was a little short of length at first he acquitted himself well, even as Trott and Morgan set about him towards the end of his spell.
The first three in England's order all did what it is preferred that all batsmen, though especially limited-overs batsmen, should not do – get out when set. Alastair Cook and Ian Bell played with no little skill early on when the ball was moving around sufficiently to enthuse all seam bowlers and Trott scored his 18th ODI fifty, which he had plenty of time (and he needs it) to convert into a fourth century.
All of them departed with early perils overcome. Bell was leg-before to a superb ball from Lee which came back at him, Cook, more culpably, became Cummins' first, though presumably not last, victim here when he drove at a wide one. Trott tried to turn the left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty to leg and simply missed it. But then again, since all that left Morgan to take centre stage, they could all be forgiven.
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