Eoin Morgan overwhelmed by his record-shattering knock
Eoin Morgan shattered a plethora of records. (AFP Image)

MANCHESTER: Eoin Morgan’s ballistic power-hitting left Afghanistan stunned, but the England skipper admitted he surprised himself more than anyone else. Morgan unleashed a relentless attack on Afghanistan en route to a career-best 148, laced with a mind-boggling 17 sixes, the most of a player in an ODI innings. ALSO READ: Morgan fires England to thumping win against Afghanistan

Morgan’s assault led England to their highest-ever World Cup total – 397 for 6, to which Afghanistan fell short by 150 runs. A day before the game, Morgan had not ruled out the possibility of Afghanistan surprising, but on match day, ensured no such thing happened. By the time the game was over, England had propelled to the top of the points-table, while Afghanistan were assured of their elimination.

Among the plethora of records the England captain smashed, one key number is 22, which is the most sixes hit by an England batsman in a World Cup. Morgan’s century, which is the fourth-quickest in World Cups, came off just 57 balls. Against Afghanistan, Morgan managed to produce a six-fest which led the way for a royal hammering of a side that has a tendency to produce surprises with their bowling line-up.

“I think I’m probably just becoming a target for the guys in the changing room to take down,” joked Morgan. “The hundred I scored is considered a slow one in our changing room – guys talk about it all the time. So it’s a tough school. ALSO READ: Never thought in my wildest dreams I’d produce an innings like that, says Morgan

“Never have I ever thought I could play a knock like that but I’m delighted that I have. It’s weird. It’s very strange to have that sixes record. It’s something, along with the innings, I never thought I’d do. It’s a nice place to be.

Since last July, Morgan has averaged 83.75 in ODI cricket at a strike rate of 112.04 with two centuries and nine half-centuries in 18 innings.

“To be fair, the last four years, I’ve probably played the best in my career, but that hasn’t involved a 50- or 60-bowl 100. I scored one in Middlesex that was I think 55 or 56. So I thought I could – I would have it in the locker somewhere, but it’s never happened. So I sort of gave up on it a little bit,” he said.

“You know, the Champions Trophy two years ago, I had a couple of scores; I would have like to have gotten more. But this is where it matters. All the work over the last four years, over the course of my career, it’s, yeah, it all sort of comes to a front now.”

When Morgan walked out to bat, England were going just about fine. After a sedate start to reach 46/1 in the Powerplay, Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root had ticked along nicely to take the score to 164 for 2. The score was 164 for 2, when Root was joined by his captain and together added 189 runs with Morgan requiring just 21 balls to race from 50 to 100.

“We were on target for 280, 290, maybe 300. I thought it was quite cagey. I thought the wicket was a little bit tacky and we were always talking about getting a late 200 score, and that – we thought that would have been enough to be competitive,” Morgan said.

Hitting sixes is one thing, but to do it so effortlessly and against Rashid Khan, the third-ranked ODI bowler in the world is what made the innings special. Overall, Rashid conceded 110 in nine overs – the most by a bowler in ODIs – and bled 11 sixes, seven of which was smoked by Morgan.

“It certainly wasn’t deliberate. We don’t go into any game with any preconceived ideas about how guys can play, because anybody can have a bad day. He’s obviously a very, very good bowler, and we’ve experienced that before. He’s performed extremely well for a long period,” he said.

“But like all good players, you know, it’s when you – you probably learn the most about yourself when your backs are against the wall, and it’s probably the same case.”

Morgan led England to three short of what would have been this World Cup’s first 400, but while he deserved credit for shepherding such a colossal total, his bowlers were also up to the task. Jofra Archer removed Noor Ali Zadran in the second over, puncturing their chase easy and although Afghanistan put up a fight through Hashmatullah Shahidi’s 75 and starts from Asghar Afghan and Rahmat Shah, 398 was a bit too steep for any side to chase down.

“I think on a wicket that didn’t offer a great deal, it had really good bounce, and turned a bit for the spinners. But seam movement or swing, it had none. So when guys execute hitting a good length using their bounce well, it is satisfying because it’s very hard to do,” Morgan said about his bowlers.

“And when the ball doesn’t move around, it obviously means your pace is important, and all three guys pace looked good today.”