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By Shrikant Shankar
Eoin Morgan scored a splendid century under extreme pressure against Australia in the second One-Day International (ODI) in Melbourne. Despite his efforts, England lost by one wicket and went 2-0 down in the five-match series. This was mainly down to James Faulkner’s heroics with the bat. England were better in this match, they are still winless [in international encounters] in their tour of Australia. And this speaks volumes of their current plight. It must also be noted that some of the better performers for England in the match were not part of the 0-5 drubbing in the Ashes.
In many ways, if a team has fresh faces, it does help them to achieve better results after enduring such results. Morgan, though, part of the England setup for many years now, was not amongst those who were whitewashed by a resurgent Australia. Coming in at No 5, with the score at 78 for three, Morgan stitched a 61-run partnership with opener Ian Bell for the fourth wicket in Brisbane at The Gabba. The partnership was just a repair work and tried to build some sort of foundation as the run-rate was only 4.81.
Bell departed for a well-made 68 off 84 deliveries as Ravi Bopara walked in. Bopara and Morgan started to build a solid stand. Their stay together yielded 39 runs at 5.44 runs. England had lost half their side and all was set for the Australian bowlers to bowl them out cheaply. But Jos Buttler and Morgan had other ideas. What the crowd at the Gabba witnessed was counter-attacking batting at its best. The duo smacked all the bowlers to all areas of the big ground. Fours and sixes were struck with ease and England were able to post a strong total.
Morgan scored only his sixth ODI century but this was one of his finest. It had the hallmarks of all great centuries — from building an innings, to finishing it off in style. Morgan added 117 runs with Buttler for the sixth wicket at an incredible run-rate of 10.32. Buttler fell one short of a deserved half-century. He struck three fours and one six. Morgan, on the other hand, smashed four fours and six sixes. In the end, Morgan was dismissed for 106 off 99 balls. His innings helped England to 300 for eight. It looked good enough as Australia were at 244 for nine, but thanks to Faulkner, they won by a nail-biting one-wicket margin.
Australia also had an 80-run stand between Glenn Maxwell and Brad Haddin before Faulkner displayed his outstanding batting abilities. For Morgan though, the innings came after he scored 50 in the first ODI. So, his form seems to be on the up and that is important from England’s point-of-view. He was touted as England’s next big thing once he shifted allegiances from Ireland. He has played 16 Tests for England, but has not lived up to the potential. His last Test for England was in February 2012. England were a different force back then and could afford to keep him as cover.
Now after a massive loss at the hands of old rivals Australia, things need to be changed. Morgan is only 27 years old and has ample time on his side. England’s next Test assignments are away to West Indies and at home against Sri Lanka. Morgan showed that he can craft a wonderful century in ODIs and needs to be shown more confidence in Tests. These two series are the perfect time to utilise his skills and ability to try and get him attuned to the five-day format. After that, England host India in a mega five-match Test series.
Morgan needs to be a part of that squad and has to be looked at as a genuine Test player going into the future. He has what it takes to make it big in Test cricket, and for that he needs to be given the right opportunities.
(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)
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