Tag Archives: Eoin Morgan

Let’s Get Mental: Over 48

You will read much today about Eoin Morgan’s 100, the mighty hitting of Faulkner in the 49th over, his edge over the ‘keeper in the 50th and his calm two boundaries thereafter, but, if you want to know where the game of cricket is now, on the 17th January 2013, you will find it in the five minutes it took to play out over 48 in Australia’s run chase: dot, dot, two, two, one, dot.

“Are you mental, Third Man?”

At the start of the 48th over, Australia were 271 for 9 in apparently vain pursuit of England’s 300 for 8. No side had scored more here in an ODI second innings. 30 to win from 18 balls look a tall order.

Faulkner, not out 39 had just struck a couple of 6s and was in the groove.  At the other end, Number 11 McKay was 2 from 8 and it was England’s best chance of clinching their first victory of a nightmare tour.

Over 48: Bresnan bowling; the longer boundary to the leg side, the longer straight boundary at the bowler’s end.

70mph off-cutter. Little pace. Faulkner, on top of it, plays calming to point.  Dot.

Ball two; Bresnan repeats the medicine, taking pace off, dragging his fingers across the ball. Faulkner, again calm and collected, over the ball, plays it back to the bowler. Dot.

To the third ball, Faulkner plays softly off his hip so they can return for two.

The fourth ball is shorter, but Faulkner continues to restrain himself, making sure the ball is played down for another two.

Fifth ball, shortish again and Faulkner pulls stiff armed but carefully to leg for a single.

Bresnan uses his only chance against McKay to bounce him. Was he ever going to try the hook? It sails to the ‘keeper, dot.

This was consummate modern cricket.  30 wanted off 18 balls.  So, “we’ll take a low risk route, and ensure we get a chance of an over with the shorter boundaries leg side and straight.  We can do 25 off 12.  It’s only two a ball”.  Mate.

For Australia, it might have been Warner, or Finch, or Marsh, or Maxwell, or Haydon, or Johnson, but it was Faulkner. For England Morgan, Buttler, Bopara, TM is searching …

Cricket; it’s still mental, but it’s got physical.

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January 17, 2014 · 11:50 am

Fine Dining in North London

Those who handed over their hard earned cash at Lord’s yesterday and those who had the faith to pay weeks ahead with a credit card were rewarded with a densely packed hamper of ‘goodies’ to match the finest on sale at the Nursery End from that ‘Greedy Italian’ Antonio Carluccio .

To Dilshan and Law the wicket may have looked like a green salad, but Hammond would have laughed at such a menu description

This was a typical Lord’s wicket which, with much fine weather forecast, had been left cooking under the covers for slightly longer than would otherwise have been the case and therefore required respect in the morning and gluttony thereafter.

The Sri Lankans still queasy after their late meal at Cardiff and in a gesture that looked insipid declined the first course. 

Strauss and Trott spurned the necessary digestif and to their cost played across straight deliveries.  An impatient Pietersen reached for the h’orderves without properly preparing the palette and was caught in the gully.  He has become ‘the hungry man’ of cricket.

England were 22 for 3 and Dilshan and Law’s reading of the menu now looked expertly seasoned.

Cook, as might be expected, understood the nature of the fare on offer and chewed on each mouthful with the greatest care in pursuit of his third successive century, while across the table, Bell, who is finally enjoying his deserved three star rating, took the score to 130 before edging to slip.

At which point the bon viveur Morgan took his place at the table and sumptuously feasted on the spin of Herath and Dilshan, lifting them deliciously for straight sixes towards the pavilion, but judiciously picking selectively at the pace on offer.

The fifth wicket fell at 201 when Cook on 96, having devoured a couple of scrumptiously short deliveries from Fernando, went for one too many and, misjudging the length, could only pull the ball skyward into a waiter’s safe hands.

Matt Prior, who now came to the table, resembles a travelling salesman enjoying the table d’hote at The Commercial, the juices from his lamb cutlets running down his chin as he describes the charms of a young lady in lingerie or the trick he has played on the unpalatable Head of Buying. 

Prior and Morgan now guzzled at five an over to take England to 295 for 5 with the kitchen hard pressed to keep pace with their craving for more.

It is a truism, though not less true for that, to say that Morgan does not play cricket like an Englishman.  He is a Dubliner who consumes Guinness and pie, tells tales and is the greatest of companions.  An O’Toole of a cricketer.* So, with the wicket now flattening and the sun now burning and the crowd now merry and the bowlers now drained, a banquet was ordered in high anticipation and much salivation.

Cricket, however, has one restorative for tired staff: a refreshing new ball, and with this one, deliciously cool in his hand Lakmal produced the perfect delivery to trap the ravenous Irishman LBW for 79 gorgeous runs.  

A rather gaunt Broad, starved of opportunity since his first-baller in Siddle’s hat trick an age ago, now joined Prior who continued to wolf down what was served up to him and to encourage his new companion to put away a rarebit with relish until the restaurant closed leaving England on 342 for 6 and Prior and Broad wanting more.

* Third Man was tempted to liken Morgan to Samuel Beckett, another lefty, but his batting average of 8.75 in Gordon and Hawke’s Cricket Form at a Glance made it an unjustifiable comparison.

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Magical Realism in Cricket Part IV – Great Expectations

“There you have it, Gentlemen,” says the old Essex and England warrior, Graham Gooch taking the stage, weathered, stooped and coiled by tendon-tightening age like the veteran of many a campaign that he is.

“What your beautiful mother told you on her bended knee, Cookie; what your father bowling endlessly to you on the Cape repeated time and again, Trotters; what your teacher drummed into you in that posh school Skip; what your coaches yelled at you during all those throw downs, Belly … was wrong!”

“From now on it’s not ‘watch the ball’, gentlemen, it’s ‘expect the ball’.”

At this point Andy Flower takes up the theme. “It’s increasingly clear to us that the Indians have been perfecting predictive techniques for years, imagining the ball so intensely that they’re able to cheat time a little; learning to opening their minds to let the future in.” 

“Blessed if I know how else we can explain Sunil’s mastery of West Indian pace all those years ago?” interupts Gooch.

“Very good, Goochie. For every long hour that Sachin spent in the nets, we think Achrekar had him spending two more sharpening his ability to read those visual cues and make the right predictions.  What moving ball hitters have been doing instinctively for centuries, what according to C.L.R. James a batsman like George Headley did through the night before each innings, the Indians have begun to do deliberatively, scientifically, systematically.”

In what is obviously a choreographed presentation, Strauss seamlessly takes the floor.  “We are fairly certain that the Aussies have been using their time in India this winter to work up their own knowledge and put into effect drills to enhance the predictive capacity of their batting.”

“Looks to be doing them a lot of good, Skip,” interrupts the iconoclast, Bresnan.

“It may not appear to be working well, but we should expect a period of transition, is that right Doctor?”

“What’s the evidence base for this?” asks the team boffin, Collingwood.

“Dr Kuhn here is pretty sure that they have their own magician and illusionist working with them.”

“Yes,” adds Kuhn.  “I feel sure that they have been using the rather controversial work of  Mark Changizi.  We’ve been looking through all the recordings for any glimpse of him but we’ve drawn a blank so far, although, there are indications from peeps through to the back of their dressing room that various practices are being used.”

“Have we tried to get anyone into their camp?” asks Morgan.

“I’m sure you know why I can’t answer that, Eoin.” “We do, however, have someone keeping an eye on their Centre for Excellence for us, but I’m not at liberty to reveal any names at present.”

“Right then, enough of this idle speculation,” concludess the old Essex warrior. “I want all you batsmen down stairs, full equipment, in five minutes.  We have some new tricks to show you don’t we, Dr Kuhn?”

“And remember what Nelson flagged at Trafalgar, ‘England Expects …’”

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Departing Visitors

Two nights ago the garden was full of the tchirrips, the tchichirrips and the occasional panicky tseeps of the house martins.  Hundreds were flying high in the sky engaged in their ceaseless trawling for insects. Last night there was only silence. The final gathering and departure has taken place.  The nests under the eaves are now empty. 

Last night, the 2010 cricket season came to an end and the final flock of overseas cricketers packed their kit and prepared to migrate to their winter homes.  Their English and Irish cousins will be following soon.  The squad for this winter’s tour of Australia will be announced at 2.30 pm today.

Before they left we were treated to another wonderful innings from Morgan, who at the Rose Bowl  last night, despite loosing the strike for much of the batting power play, moved with a comforting inevitability from the 80’s to his ‘hundred’ in the final two overs of England’s innings.

He had arrived at the crease with England in some danger at 106 – 4 when Bell was out to the last ball of the 26th over.  So, Morgan scored 107 out of 150 runs in 101 balls of the remaining 24 overs. 

With his hands gripped at the very bottom of his Kookaburra bat he whipped the ball to all parts of the ground in an innings that included eight fours, one six and every shot in the modern game.  One can now talk of England’s limited overs cricket as BM and AM: ‘Before Morgan’ and ‘After Morgan’.

Some batsmen are not only good themselves, but they make batting at the other end easier.  Morgan is one such player.  He neutralises pressure like a mop of Flash in the advert carves through grease. Only two further wickets fell while he was at the crease. 

There followed a further treat; ten wonderful and extraordinary overs from Graeme Swann.  The wicket was turning quickly, so, he would have been expected to cause trouble, but actually the real damage, the real threat, came in the air.  He was gaining prodigious and very late drift.

Belived to be the FRench Curve with which Graeme Swann works out the trajectory of his deliveries. The nail varnish should surely come as no surprise.

The left handed Fawad Alam, who has looked like a novice against spin this summer, was beaten in the air when Swann,  bowling around the wicket to him, made the ball drift like the trajectory of a French curve to pitch just out side leg stump from where it gripped, turned and hit the top of off stump.

Mohammed Yousef provided a greater challenge and drew from the bowler an even better response.  This wonderful batsman had been going about his business with great calm, stroking the ball with apparent ease, scoring singles at will wherever he wished; until he met Swann. 

It was obvious that Yousef was intent on not getting out to Swann, a mark of considerable respect.  He played as late as he could and ‘with the spin’ but was beaten through the air when he was lured into over reaching and extending his bat to a ball which drifted even further and later than he had predicted.   Landing far beyond him, it turned quickly and sharply on its way through the gap that the stretch had opened up between the right hander’s bat and pad to strike the off stump.

This was a very special ball indeed and it then brought Shahid Afridi to the wicket.  The Pakistan captain, in a very Afridi way, decided that he could break the laws of physics (and of batting) by premeditating a cut against the best advice in cricket.  Inevitably the ball cannoned off the underside of his bat onto the wickets.

Pakistan subsided. 

That England’s admirable captain and Man of the Series, Andrew Strauss, made sure he had one of the stumps was itself telling.  The team revelled in the victory, further betraying their true feelings about the side they were playing.  Later there were handshakes but that tightly gripped stump and that belligerent victory huddle had revealed it all. 

England had reached out to cricket in Pakistan when offering to host their contest with Australia this summer.  The MCC had actually sponsored the Lord’s Test match between the two countries when no commercial sponsor came forward. The England players did not deserve or merit being unworthily traduced by elements of the Pakistan set up.  It is one thing to counter attack on the cricket field but quite another thing to counter attack in this way off it. 

An improper tour is ended.

Seven cold months now confront us, over half a year of anxious waiting for the return of the swallows, swifts and house martins with whom we have shared this summer.  Let us hope as many as possible return fit and well to rebuild their nests and add charm and interest, drama and fulfilment to the summer of 2011.

For the arrival of the house martins all that time ago see here.

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