Morgan form out of sync with England rise

England dominated Sri Lanka in the ODI series, but Eoin Morgan's form should be discussed

While the recent upturn in England's limited-overs fortunes has been well documented, the dreadful form of captain Eoin Morgan, the man who has helped shape this exciting new side, has been less talked about.

Morgan's latest failure, holing out for 20 to the part-time spin of Danushka Gunathilaka during the final one-day international against Sri Lanka in Cardiff, extended his run of international innings without a half-century to 21.

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It's a sequence that stretches back eight months to England's tour of the United Arab Emirates, when Morgan scored 76 in the first ODI against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi.

"It leaves a lot to be desired at the moment," admitted Morgan. I’ve been working really hard. I need a score. I haven't batted much but I’m working hard to get one and I believe I will."

The old maxim that a captain can get away with poor form when his side is winning was never truer in this current case, the Irish-born batsman escaping scrutiny because England are playing so well and, crucially, winning not just matches but also the hearts and minds of cricket followers.

At a time when interest in one-day cricket is meant be waning in the face of Twenty20, it is telling that all five matches in this series have been sell-outs. Put simply, this team gets punters through the turnstiles.

This really is a remarkable time for England's limited-overs sides, the upturn in one-day fortunes since last year's World Cup – consolidated by this series win against Sri Lanka – complemented by the surprise run to the final of the World T20 in India earlier this year.

England hit rock bottom during the last World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, a tournament that saw them humiliatingly exit at the group stage.

England knocked out of the World Cup // Getty Images
England knocked out of the World Cup // Getty Images

However, the revival since, led by Morgan’s positive captaincy and an investment in youth, has paid dividends.

There has also been a real change in the mood of the camp, almost a club-like atmosphere that has seen the players bond and genuinely want to do well for each other.

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It was perhaps apt then this game was in Cardiff, a city suffering a collective hangover the morning after the Wales football team marched into the semi-finals of Euro 2016. That achievement – the biggest in the history of Welsh football - has been built on a similar brotherly bond between the players. It shows team spirit and unity goes a long way when married to talent.

Morgan, still only 29, must be given huge credit for his part in helping forge England’s new-found spirit. Paul Farbrace, England’s assistant coach, even suggests his lack of runs are irrelevant given his attitude has set an example to those around him.

"I know Morgs would like to score more consistent runs but the thing that’s so good about him is he keeps playing the way he wants the team to play," said Farbrace. "That in itself gives the others confidence to go and do it."

So, it’s no surprise that when players like Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Joe Root and Jos Buttler are regularly producing big runs, Morgan’s form has gone under the radar.

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Why focus on a negative when there’s so many positive things to talk about?

The pity is, though, that on his day, Morgan is England’s best one-day batsman. The solution could be to move him down the order from four to say six or seven, where he could resume the 'finisher' role he assumed so successfully early in his England career.

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That would allow someone like Jos Buttler, in my view currently wasted at six, to be promoted and would feasibly strengthen what is already a dynamic and powerful batting line-up.

It may seem like a moot point right now, England having won three of their past five ODI series and been edged out 3-2 by Australia and South Africa in the other two. 

However, if England do start going through a downturn in results - and a failure to reach the latter stages of next year’s Champions Trophy on home soil would be seen as that – then Morgan’s form and even position will come into sharp focus.

For now, that scenario is just theoretical. Yet we should start talking about why England’s captain is scoring so few runs – whether or not his team are winning.

Meg Lanning Steve Smith