Remember the date. It was a sunny afternoon in June 9, 2015. The location was Edgbaston. It had been three months since the debacle of the World Cup where England had essentially shown their hand to be around 20 years out of date as they limped out of the competition with barely a whimper and a strokeless Gary Ballance in the middle order. Muddled thinking had turned to moronic thinking. The captain, Eoin Morgan, had barely been able to score a run himself as the inevitable defeat to Bangladesh confirmed England’s exit. Dreadful.
While Peter Moores drifted out of view for the second time as head coach, England still retained the belief that Morgan was the man to regenerate himself and his team with a new brand of positive cricket. In Brendon McCullum’s New Zealanders, the English skipper had the perfect team to trial out his brave new world.
The result was a mammoth 408 with Joe Root and Jos Buttler hitting hundreds and England reaching 200 before 30 overs were up. It didn’t matter that England had lost six wickets with 20 overs still to go. They were not going to change their policy or be cowed. England had achieved their highest ODI score ever in their country with the most sixes (14)
Such an achievement certainly boosted Morgan’s own form for that summer against New Zealand as well as the subsequent series against Australia as he returned scores of 50, 88, 71, 130, 38, 85, 62 and 92. Results have been a bit up and down since, but the emphasis and talk now is a camp that is full of energy and youth which is not afraid to have a go. Now they need to win something shiny.
Morgan was not part of the squad that won 2-1 in Bangladesh and he certainly received a fair amount of stick in some quarters for pulling out of that tour on security reasons. Maybe those voices that like to be heard would not have been so strident if the captain’s own form had not slumped so much. Since that golden summer 18 months ago, the Middlesex man has only scored three 50s in the next 17 innings. In his absence, Buttler, the man who really kickstarted England’s OD revolution with that brilliant innings at Birmingham, captained very effectively in his absence scoring two fifties and continuing the bold approach.
Morgan still feels he has much to offer as a limited over batsman and has been getting his eye in with Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash. Gone are any thoughts of him returning to the Test team, but the 30-year-old needs to rediscover the ability to put a string of performances together and, also, actually perform in a big one day tournament, which he never really has either for England or Ireland. The Champions Trophy in June held on home soil offers another opportunity for redemption after Morgan and Ravi Bopara somehow failed to carry England to the prize in the final in 2013 against India.
Morgan has only scored three runs in the first two warm-up game so the pressure is on the returning captain already. He needs to show some of the “old” creativity that has now been somewhat superseded by the other star hitters in the camp. Use of the feet is what comes naturally to the Indians, but will England be able to dance their ways to competitive totals?
It will be a real test of progress to evaluate if England can turn star quality into a consistent winning mentality away from home comforts.