Morgan's sleight of hand offers the promise of a dazzling future
Thursday 06 May 2010
All the talk now is of Eoin Morgan. It began as an excited muttering in South Africa last September, grew into something more voluble on his return there in November, became more urgent in Bangladesh in March and has shown no sign of declining from fever pitch in Guyana this week.
Morgan can do things with a cricket bat for which it was not intended. He switches hands, changes angles, swirls it vertically or horizontally, all with dazzling foot movement and lightning speed. It is less batting than prestidigitation and it is conjuring England out of some fairly deep holes.
The most recent was against Ireland in the World Twenty 20 on Tuesday. Here he was playing against his native country, the team for which he has played 23 one-day internationals, and they were pummelling England, the team to which he defected for fame, fortune, better cricket, perhaps Test cricket.
On a dodgy pitch, Morgan defied his countrymen with his usual serenity. His 45 from 37 balls, in a match eventually ruined by rain, made the difference. Had he not played it, England's innings could well have foundered more quickly, giving Ireland more time, before the rains came to make it a no result. There is a sense of expectancy as England prepare to play (probably) Pakistan in their first Super Eight match today; there is now every time Morgan goes out to bat.
England's coach, Andy Flower, is well aware that Morgan is in extraordinary form but it is also his job to retain a sense of perspective even when Morgan is hitting perspective into the stratosphere. Flower is reluctant to play the game of ranking his starlet, though he is plainly charging through the rankings.
"I have said before I wouldn't want to pigeonhole the guy because there are all sorts of things he could achieve in his career and he has only just started it," said Flower. "Whether he goes on to play Test cricket or not we don't know, but he's obviously a guy who is good at handling pressure, has got a good brain on him and he's very talented."
It is as much Morgan's grace in extreme cricketing circumstances as his easy flamboyance which has propelled his career. In the Champions Trophy at the Wanderers last September he made 62no from 75 balls, a model of diligence; in a T20 match against South Africa weeks later, he hit seven huge sixes.
For some the question, the only question, remains whether he will go on to play Test cricket. Morgan professes his desire to do so, Flower is insistent that he has to make runs in the four-day County Championship for Middlesex.
Although Morgan was oddly muted during his recent excursion for Bangalore Royal Challengers in the Indian Premier League (top score 17) he is still likely to make a fortune from the shortest form of the game. He has to work out whether Test cricket is that important to him.
Flower said: "He is an interesting character. He brings a lot to our changing room, he obviously brings a lot to our side when he has got the bat in his hand.
"A lot of his practice time is based on doing the basics really well. Obviously, he has practised his innovations and he's comfortable doing them, but one of the strengths of those innovations is that he is unpredictable."
What stands out about Morgan is the speed with which he assesses the state of the game and measures his innings accordingly. He judges the unorthodox to perfection. England, thankfully, encourage his method.
It could not be claimed by any stretch that Morgan's batting was forged in England. Indeed, perhaps it could have been made only in Ireland. His compatriots wish him only well, it seems.
After the no result which ensured Ireland's elimination from the World T20, their captain William Porterfield said: "He has the ability to do it against the best and I think he can definitely go and play Test cricket. He has the ability and mentality, he can switch from one form to the other, he's going to go places." He is too.
Probable England team:
M J Lumb, C Kieswetter (wkt), K P Pietersen, P D Collingwood (capt), E J G Morgan, L J Wright, S C J Broad, T T Bresnan, G P Swann, M H Yardy, R J Sidebottom.
Pitch report (Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados): Likely to be slow, but not as slow as in Guyana, with an outfield not giving full value for strokes.
TV: Sky Sports 1, 2-6pm.
Weather: Warm, light winds, strong chance of light rain showers. Maximum temperature: 3C.
Umpires: B Bowden (NZ) & R Koertzen (SA).
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