Eoin Morgan has suggested he is hitting the ball as well as at any time in his career after a match-defining performance against Pakistan.
Morgan made 66 from 33 balls as England pulled off a record T20I chase at Emirates Old Trafford and against this opposition. It was his fourth half-century in his seven most recent T20I innings and sustains a remarkable record that has seen him average 59.37 in T20I cricket since March 2019 with a strike rate of 183.39.
Morgan’s impressive numbers extend to ODI cricket. Since July 14, 2018 he averages 61.38 in the format with a strike rate of 106.79.
And Morgan, who was subsequently named Player of the Match, revealed the secret of his improved form was his increased comfort with the role he has been required to fulfil in the England side. Morgan effectively fulfils a floating role which can change game to game as required by his team. He has batted at No. 4, 5 and 6 in his last eight ODIs and at No. 4 and 5 in his last three T20Is.
“Am I hitting the ball as sweetly as I ever have? Definitely,” Morgan said. “The numbers definitely back this up, even before this series started, and certainly within T20 cricket.
“The last two years in international cricket are my best numbers to date. That’s great because if I can combine a little of that [form] with my experience, I think that will go a long way to winning games. It’s nice that I am feeling good but it’s actually replicated in the numbers as well.
“Why? It’s about being comfortable in the role. It’s about having experience and confidence in the roles that I play. Before I became captain, I didn’t feel that comfortable jumping up and down the order. But now that it’s my decision I feel more at ease, particularly when I am moving up and down the order between No. 4 and No. 6. I’d feel more comfortable if I was slipping down to No. 6 with Jos Buttler coming in ahead of me, than I would beforehand.”
He also hinted he was more accepting of England’s policy towards T20 cricket. In recent times – while they were focusing on their 50-over World Cup ambitions – England rarely fielded their strongest T20 XI. Instead the format was often used for rest and rotation of senior players and as an opportunity to take a look at other options.
“I’ve accepted that we’re on a different part of our journey at the moment with one team,” Morgan said. “We’re trying to grow and learn and build strength in depth. So, I’m just taking that on rather than being fussy about selection or down about us not putting out our best XI all the time.”
Morgan also sounded encouraged by the number of options his T20 team has at the top of the order. With Tom Banton and Dawid Malan both making half-centuries during this series, they are pushing the likes of Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Buttler and Joe Root for places in the top three. And while that will leave the England management with some tricky choices ahead of the T20 World Cup, it’s the sort of problem Morgan is happy to face.
But despite the impressive contributions made by Banton and Malan, Morgan hinted that Buttler, Roy and Bairstow – with their proven track record in international cricket – remained in pole position to retain their places in England’s first choice side.
“I’m delighted by the options,” Morgan said. “We’re just in a period of our game where there are a lot of really good top-order batters available to us.
“It’s great to see Banton and Malan coming in and scoring runs; Tom more so. The way he played was the way we see him in a Somerset shirt which is awesome and Dawid’s just continued to score runs at a rate. His start to his international career is unlike many others.
“The question is, do they perform in that way against the best in the world or do they perform just against a certain number of teams? The three guys we have at the top of the order in our strongest XI, and that includes Jos, do it against everybody. It’s one of our strengths. If you were to bring one of the younger guys in who’s less experienced, it might be a bigger challenge.
“But if it doesn’t work out at the top, we have options. That’s the best position we’ve been in for some time with our T20 cricket just simply because the majority of the guys have been rested for the last few years.”
Morgan also hinted that, despite the next T20 World Cup being moved from Australia to India, his quickest bowlers – Mark Wood and Jofra Archer – remained vital to his side’s plans.
“They absolutely have a role to play in India,” he said. “The importance of pace is emphasised on the really slow, flat wickets. If you have that extra pace, you can still skid through someone, bowl a wide yorker or hit the stumps and get a wicket. When you’re a little bit slower, that pace isn’t there and it’s difficult to skid through someone unless the ball is reverse swinging.”