Eoin Morgan says that the process of whittling England’s World Cup squad down to the final 15-man party was “the toughest decision I’ve ever been a part of”, but believes that he personally, and his team as a whole, have never been better equipped to make the big calls, having grown together in the four years since the 2015 campaign.
Speaking at the launch of England’s World Cup kit in East London, Morgan admitted that his team’s final approach to the tournament had not been entirely smooth – with Alex Hales’ expulsion from the squad for a second failed drugs test providing a particularly unwelcome distraction in recent weeks.
However, with England making a seamless readjustment in Hales’ absence to beat Pakistan 4-0 in another record-breaking run of batting form, Morgan feels that the team have come through a significant stress test of their culture. Looking ahead, he backs his players to find further ways to keep winning in the event of any more disruption in the course of the tournament.
“I wouldn’t say it’s been smooth, I’d say we’ve been better equipped at dealing with anything that’s cropped up, certainly as a group,” said Morgan. “For me as a captain, being more experienced, and having been through four years of being captain, our prep and planning has been excellent and the guys have responded to that by performing on a consistent basis, probably more so for last two years than first two.”
Asked if the Hales situation was the sort of crisis that would have derailed past England World Cup campaigns, Morgan admitted: “Yeah, it probably would have. It’s something I’ve never come up against before.”
However, he also explained that the team management had put in place contingency plans for similar incidents, meaning that they had not been caught entirely on the hop when the news of Hales’ indiscretions were made public.
“We hadn’t planned exactly for that, we’d planned for instances when the [team] culture had been tested or individually we’d been tested,” Morgan said. “There’s still loads of things that we’ve planned for that might continue to crop up throughout the World Cup.
“Our values as a team include the words ‘courage’, ‘respect’, and ‘unity’, symbolising the three lions on our cap, and taking that cap forward across all three formats and all squads,” he added.
“Over a period of time everyone can relate to it on and off the field. For some people it may only be words, but for us as international cricketers, travelling around all the time, the one thing that’s constant right from the beginning of your journey is your cap. It’s a gentle reminder of how much responsibility you have, and the privileged position you are constantly in to make the most of that.”
That shared journey made this week’s decision to cut Joe Denly and, especially, David Willey from England’s final 15 particularly tough to make, but having been given the casting vote in the selectors’ deliberations, Morgan was able to defend the “logic of the decision and the balance of the squad” that resulted in Jofra Archer and Liam Dawson being called up in their places.
“It was the toughest decision I’ve ever been a part of, certainly with this group,” said Morgan. “To leave two guys out, one who has been around for the last four years and been a big part of everything we’ve done on and off the field, and the other is an exceptionally talented cricketer. It’s unfortunate for those who missed out but it was the right call.”
Morgan added that he wasn’t able to feel any great sense of relief at having made the cut, given that the contributions of both players had required “the time and dedication” to do them justice. However, he was able to reiterate to both the point he made at the presentation ceremony in Headingley last week, that the nature of a six-week tournament would almost certainly throw up the possibility of an replacement being called upon.
“We had a conversation last night,” Morgan said, “explaining the fact that there are nine group-stage games and the fact that we have four fast bowlers, and one of them is likely to get injured. It happens.
“And I had the same conversation with Joe. We haven’t had many injuries in the batting department for a long time, so we need to plan for everything, given that they might come into play straightaway, so they need to be prepared for that.”
Asked if England were playing “fearless” cricket in the wake of their 4-0 series win over Pakistan, Morgan actually felt that his team had reined in some of the more overt aggression that had led to a few rare but notable mishaps in recent years.
“I wouldn’t say that we feel fearless, probably two years ago we felt more fearless, because we were quite young in our growth as a team,” he said. “We’ve had two more years’ experience on top of that, and we are better at coping and adapting to scenarios and recognising different situations throughout a game. I wouldn’t say that’s fearless.”
The team’s single biggest disappointment of the past four years, the Champions Trophy semi-final defeat against Pakistan in 2017, was an example of where England had been derailed in the recent past.
“One of the biggest learning things that came out of that was that it probably came a little bit early for us,” he said. “We probably didn’t realise how good we were and how poor we were on slow wickets. Since then, we’ve improved our play at both home and away, and on wickets that don’t necessarily suit our planning.”
Overall, however, Morgan said that he was simply itching to get started. “We are pretty close to our starting XI, barring a couple of pitch minor adjustments,” he said. “If the game was tomorrow, it would be better for us than seven or eight days’ time. Our preparation against Pakistan was as good as anything we could have hoped for. To perform like we did is extremely encouraging.”
Managing bowlers’ workload ‘most important’ in Test championship – Kohli
Managing the workload of their fast bowlers is going to be key for India to win the World Test Championship, India’s captain Virat Kohli believes. After the win in Antigua Test, which made him India’s most successful captain in overseas Tests, Kohli spoke of the importance of having his bowlers making maximum impact in Test matches.
One of those was Jasprit Bumrah, who sat out the limited-overs legs of the ongoing tour and came back to blow West Indies away in the second innings with a spell that read 8-4-7-5. He was not at his best in the first innings, which he put down to a slightly stiff back coming back into action after a long break, but in the second innings he was lethal, relying on the outswinger, which is not his stock delivery.
“That’s probably the most important thing for us right now, managing player workloads,” Kohli said at the post-match presentation. “That’s why he (Bumrah) didn’t play any white-ball cricket after the World Cup because we wanted him to be fresh for the Tests. He is going to be a key factor for us as long as the Test championship continues. We know how good a bowler he is. And the impact he can make in a spell.”
Kohli said India had the required personnel in the pace department to be able to dominate but spoke of the need to monitor the workloads closely. “[Mohammed] Shami is the same [as Bumrah],” Kohli continued. “Ishant [Sharma] is a banker for years now. And he can make an impact in any spell he bowls. Those three together are bowling really well. Umesh [Yadav] hasn’t had a game, and we have Navdeep Saini, who can bowl 150 clicks, waiting in the wings. We are pretty settled as far as our bowling options are concerned. Managing workloads and the number of overs we bowl is going to be a key factor for us.”
Other than workloads, the team’s selection of the XIs has come under scrutiny in the past. In this Test, too, they had to make two difficult decisions. They ended up leaving out R Ashwin and Rohit Sharma. Ashwin’s exclusion left the experts, including Sunil Gavaskar, surprised. Kohli said the selections were being made in the team’s best interests. While he went on to offer a reason for Hanuma Vihari’s inclusion ahead of Rohit, he avoided speaking about leaving out Ashwin.
“The combination is absolutely based on players who can provide more than one skill,” Kohli said. “That’s why Vihari got the nod for this particular game because he can bowl you those eight-ten overs when you are falling behind the over rate. As a part-timer he is pretty effective as well.
“Look, for us it is about managing the best combination we can as a side, and feeling settled about it. We all have a discussion on that particular thing, and we go ahead with what is the best thing for the team. There will always be opinions on a team selected, but we all understand that whatever decisions are taken are in the best interest of the team.”
To live with selection calls is definitely one of the challenges of captaincy, but it is a job that has brought Kohli a lot of satisfaction over the years. Going past Sourav Ganguly as the most successful India captain in away Tests is just one of them.
“It is a responsibility that I am fulfilling,” Kohli said of captaincy. “It is a blessing that I am in a position where I can contribute to the team in more than one way. I like taking that responsibility but nothing is possible without the team. If these guys hadn’t bowled or batted the way they have, we wouldn’t have won the Tests we have. The credit can’t be taken away from them at all because I am just making decisions on the field. Execution is in their hand. Always been a team game for us.”
Recent Match Report – Worcestershire vs Lancashire, Twenty20 Cup (England), North Group
Lancashire 218 for 5 (Croft 94) beat Worcestershire 193 for 7 (Whiteley 89*, Maxwell 3-23) by 25 runs
Lancashire Lightning secured a top two spot – and a home quarter-final – in the Vitality Blast North Group with a 25-run victory over holders Worcestershire Rapids at Blackfinch New Road.
Steven Croft hit a career equalling 94 as the Lightning totalled a formidable 218 for 5 after being put into bat. Saqib Mahmood then pressed home Lancashire’s advantage by removed Rapids openers Hamish Rutherford – the overseas replacement for Martin Guptill – and Riki Wessels in his first two overs.
The game was effectively ended when Rapids captain Moeen Ali became the first of two wickets to fall in spinner Glenn Maxwell’s first over and the Australian ended with the excellent figures of 3 for 23 from four overs.
Some typical hitting by Ross Whiteley – including his 100th T20 six for Worcestershire – kept the capacity 4500 crowd entertained. The Rapids are still very much in contention to reach the knockout stages but now face a crucial game against Notts Outlaws at Blackfinch New Road on Wednesday.
The Rapids opted to field first and struck an immediate blow with Alex Davies top-edging the first delivery of the game from Dillon Pennington to keeper Ben Cox.
Wayne Parnell shared the new ball and Steven Croft helped his first delivery over the fine leg boundary for six. Liam Livingstone collected four boundaries in Parnell’s second over and the Lightning half-century came up in 4.1 overs.
Croft raced to his half century off just 24 balls with four sixes and four fours. Livingstone helped him add 83 in eight overs before he lofted Ed Barnard straight to Whiteley at deep midwicket.
Maxwell flicked Pat Brown over the fine leg boundary for six but tried to repeat the shot from the next ball and was pouched by Pat Brown. Captain Dane Vilas made a quickfire 23 before he cut hard at Barnard and picked out Rutherford at third man.
Daryl Mitchell bowled a tight mid innings spell and his four overs cost only 26 runs. But Croft continued to blaze away and hoisted Brown for two sixes in an over costing 22 runs. He moved onto 94 before attempting a slog-sweep in the final over from Moeen Ali and was stumped.
Croft faced 55 balls and struck six sixes and six fours and his fifth wicket partnership with James Faulkner was worth 60 in five overs.
When the Rapids launched their reply they were immediately on the back foot as Rutherford lobbed a Mahmood delivery to mid-on and Wessels perished at deep midwicket. Tom Fell was taken at long on – a fine low catch by Croft – off legspinner Matt Parkinson and then Maxwell’s introduction to the attack paid double dividends.
Moeen was bowled by his first delivery and then Parnell perished at long-on. The Rapids lost half their side for 59 and required 151 from the final 10 overs.
Whiteley reached a 20 ball half-century, which included 26 from an over by Richard Gleeson. It included two sixes and seven fours.
An entertaining stand of 86 in eight overs with Cox ended when the keeper provided Maxwell with a third scalp with Davies this time holding onto the chance at deep midwicket. Whiteley ended unbeaten on 89 from 40 balls as the Rapids closed on 193 for 7.
Recent Match Report – Surrey Stars vs Western Storm, Women’s Cricket Super League, 27th Match
Western Storm 171 for 4 (Priest 89, Knight 51) beat Surrey Stars 94 (Taylor 34, Odedra 4-25) by 77 runs
Rachel Priest gave a masterclass in power hitting as Western Storm maintained their 100 percent record in the 2019 Kia Super League with a 77-run thrashing of Surrey Stars at Guildford.
The New Zealand international blazed 89 in just 55 balls with six sixes and 10 fours as Storm totalled 171 for 4. Stars never threatened to chase it down with Sonia Odedra returning figures of 4 for 25 to hustle them out for 94
It means victory over Yorkshire Diamonds on Wednesday will see Storm head for finals day with a perfect 10/10 record in the group stages.
For Stars this was a sixth defeat in a row in what has become a wretched campaign.
Priest had her radar set from over one, hitting Dane Van Niekerk into the crowd.
Eva Gray got similar treatment, though the Kiwi would have had her heart in her mouth after one lbw shout from Marizanne Kapp which was turned down by umpire Sue Redfearn.
Smriti Mandhana was superbly stumped by Sarah Taylor off Van Niekerk, but Priest continued on with her relentless assault. Three more maximums and six fours carried her to 50 in just 33 balls with Western skipper Heather Knight content to play second fiddle.
Stars didn’t help their cause, Amy Gordon dropping Priest at deep mid-on on 76 before shelling another chance, this time to dismiss Knight when she had 22, Laura Marsh the unlucky bowler on both occasions.
A century looked certain for Priest, but she fell 11 short, pulling a short one from Van Niekerk to Natalie Sciver on the mid-wicket fence. The stand with Knight had realised 97 in 65 balls.
Knight took charge, moving to her own half-century with a six and five fours. And though she fell to Marsh in the last over, 171 for 4 was another imposing score.
Stars made the worst possible start in pursuit of the target, Lizelle Lee falling to Freya Davies for one to continue her poor run in the campaign.
Van Niekerk soon followed, hitting one huge six before nicking Deepti Sharma into the gloves of Priest.
The rate required was soon beyond 10, but with Davies and Sharma bowling with superb accuracy, Stars went six overs without finding the fence.
Successive fours from Taylor ended the famine, but still the scoreboard pressure mounted. Taylor’s shot back over the head of Anya Shrubsole was a joy to watch, but England’s 2017 World Cup star extracted swift revenge when the Stars’ wicketkeeper fell later in the over to a catch by Knight at extra cover.
Knight accounted for Bryony Smith and Sciver and Kapp fell in successive balls to Odedra, the latter having her stumps spread-eagled.
There would be no hat-trick, but there was third wicket for Odedra when Marsh was stumped for just a single. And she struck again later in the over as Gray found the hands of Sophie Luff. Naomi Dattani joined in the fun by mopping up the tail on a sorry afternoon for the Stars.
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