Sometimes, there comes along a passage of play which changes things. Such was the case on Friday at the Wanderers when Eoin Morgan of England via Ireland played an innings of true wonder. Over 44 balls of remarkable timing, controlled power and extraordinary improvisation, Morgan suggested that England have found a one-day batsman for the ages. His unbeaten 85 containing five sixes of breathtaking audacity was the highest for England in Twenty20.
At these moments it is advisable to be a trifle cautious. Sport, like the record charts, is littered with one-hit wonders. But Morgan, a 23-year-old Dubliner, has been threatening something of this order for a few weeks since the Champions Trophy.
"I felt very relaxed and at home with my own game," he said yesterday at Centurion where England play their second T20 match against South Africa today. "The wicket allowed me to do that and the partnership before between [Jonathan] Trott and [Paul] Collingwood created that effect within the innings. I haven't a clue what it was, I just hit the ball very well."
Morgan made it seem simple but it takes skill, practice and fearlessness. He was adventurous in ways that few batsmen anywhere dare to be, let alone England batsmen. He embodied the new spirit of enterprise that is sweeping through the squad.
England made 202 for 6 and won by one run under the Duckworth Lewis regulation, the narrowest of victories, but it would have been impossible to predict that England would score so many after being invited to bat. Three days earlier, they had been bowled out for 89 in a wretchedly dim-witted display against South Africa A. It was precisely the start they yearned for and a whole new world has opened up for Morgan.
Brought up in Dublin where he used to practice in the alleyway next to his house, often with his two elder brothers bowling hockey balls at him, he played 23 limited-overs internationals for Ireland. He transferred allegiance because he has Test ambitions and was selected in the one-day team for the first time at the start of last summer.
An indifferent season for Middlesex followed but to their credit England stayed firm to their beliefs and picked him for the one-day series against Australia.
Since then he has seemed to be one of those who is at home in international cricket, bringing a refreshing dimension to the middle order. If Test cricket may provide a more profound scrutiny, his capacity to adapt should not be overlooked. Morgan developed his outrageous jinks, deflections and reverse-sweeps because of his slight frame and relative lack of strength. When he arrived at Middlesex he simply could not hit the ball far enough and innovated to survive. His pulled six off Dale Steyn that sailed out of the ground and hit the roof of the adjacent block of flats suggested that matters have progressed. The six in the final over, a flick to the finest of fine legs, was his most audacious shot. "They were bowling quite well at the end, yorker length on my left heel, and I had to do something about it," he said.
If it was not quite an authentic win, it was still a grand exhibition and the start England's tour needed. Last winter in India, they won none of the five one-dayers or two Tests, and in the West Indies they couldn't win any of the Tests, eventually recording their opening victory of the winter only because of a misreading of the Duckworth Lewis charts by West Indies.
It was DL who assisted England's cause on Friday, although they helped themselves with smart fielding and Paul Collingwood's decision to recall Jimmy Anderson with rain threatening. He delivered. England are off.