Morgan will have to wait for big shot at Test level

Flower says young batting star has to prove himself as England face bowler injuries
Click to follow
The Independent Online

The last Dubliner to play Test cricket for England was Sir Timothy O'Brien. He had not yet ascended to the baronetcy when he was chosen on the back of having scored 942 first-class runs at an average of little more than 20.

If Eoin Morgan, the new sensation of England's batting, wishes to succeed him in the Test middle order, he must do better. Presumably, the selectors, having been apparently deceived once by a talented Irishman, are not about to let the same happen again.

Sir Timothy played five Tests over 12 years, during which he failed to score more than 20 and did not bowl. It was inauspicious stuff. That was between 1884 and 1896 but obviously selectors can never afford to forget.

As Andy Flower, England's team director, said of Morgan yesterday: "He has settled really well to limited-overs cricket and has shown limited-overs talent and shown the capacity to make good decisions and handle pressure. As far as a Test career goes, he will have to display for us that he can score heavy runs at first-class cricket, which he hasn't done enough of yet. I have had a chat with Eoin about this and he knows what is expected."

Even if it is not based on the experiences with the third baronet, it seemed a trifle harsh. Earlier this week in Mirpur, Morgan became the first person to score one-day hundreds for two countries. His blazing and intelligent 110 not out ensured that England secured a series they might otherwise have been forced to fight for from 1-1 in the third match being played today in Chittagong.

It was a bravura exhibition, but merely an appendage to several that Morgan has performed in the past six months since the start of the Champions Trophy in South Africa. So talented is he, such a range of strokes has he played allied with batting of great sense, that it seems to any passing observer that Test cricket must loom.

But the longer form demands different disciplines, greater concentration, an altogether changed personality, perhaps small changes in grip, stance and approach. Perhaps not all players can have a pitch in both camps, though. In Morgan's case this would be more than a passing pity. From what has been seen so far, he could illuminate the stage.

Flower, however, seemed set on the matter, quite refusing to be persuaded by the observation that men such as David Gower and Marcus Trescothick had hardly made a Championship run when they were selected. Angus Fraser, the team director of Middlesex, where Morgan plays, said the left-handed batsman definitely had the talent to play both forms of the game.

Morgan had a good first-class season in 2008 when he made 915 runs at 43.57, but slipped back last year when his season was interrupted by one-day international calls. Therein lies the difficulty for him. He is expected to go off and play in the Indian Premier League this weekend, will then join England for the World Twenty20 and will not play for Middlesex until close to the end of May, when they will already have played six Championship matches.

"That will be the big challenge for him," Fraser said. "He will get so little first-class cricket in which to score the runs that seem to be required, and he will have to compartmentalise it. That will be tough when he might be thinking of the next one-day series."

Flower, however, is a meticulous man who knows his mind and covers every angle. That is why yesterday he decided that two fast bowlers had to be added to England's Test squad as cover. The fittest England team of all time, the mantra of the winter, has succumbed to a rash of injuries.

Ryan Sidebottom is out of the tour with a thigh injury, and Stuart Broad and Graham Onions will both go for MRI scans on their backs today. Tim Bresnan will stay with the squad and the 6ft 7in tall Middlesex fast bowler, Steve Finn, has been called up to the senior squad for the first time.

The injuries are a slight embarrassment, considering the amount of time the players spend in the gym, all of them doing routines which are custom-built. The fitness coach, Huw Bevan, is held in high regard, but questions are bound to be asked about method and excess.

"I think it might be because of the pace at which the game is played and the amount of stress put on bodies," Flower said. "I have heard some criticism about the amount of work the guys put into their physical preparation but to play at the intensity required these days people will seek constant improvement. You can't get away from injuries to fast bowlers." But it is conceivable that England could be without all four fast bowlers who played against South Africa earlier this winter and the questions will not, therefore, disappear quickly.

Fit for purpose? England's injury list

Ryan Sidebottom Thigh injury rules him out for the rest of the tour.

Stuart Broad Misses final one-dayer because of back stress injury.

Graham Onions Similar to Broad, is awaiting results of an MRI scan to determine the extent of back injury.

James Anderson Rested from tour to undergo a specialist review and rehabilitation for chronic knee injury.

Andrew Flintoff Recovering from successful knee operation.

Simon Jones Welshman suffering from yet another knee injury.

Comments