There is nothing better than winning a match that was looking as if it was lost. So Eoin Morgan could afford a rare smile after England’s five-run victory over Australia in their Twenty20 match here on Monday. His team held their nerve whereas the Australians did not.
Morgan was happy to highlight two young men who stayed calm when it mattered, David Willey and Ben Stokes. Neither is a shrinking violet and it is clear that Morgan likes this type of cricketer in his team. “Willey is brilliant. He’s a bit like Ben Stokes. He loves the limelight and the responsibility. He’s not one to shy away and plays a big part in the changing culture of the team,” said the captain.
Willey contrived to dismiss the Australia captain, Steve Smith, when he appeared to be winning the game while Stokes was given the burden of bowling the final over when Australia required 12 for victory. “He [Stokes] was not earmarked to bowl that over but that’s how it worked out,” added Morgan. “He took his responsibility well.”
Morgan must also have been happy that the decision to allow him to rest for four weeks prior to this batch of one-day fixtures was so spectacularly vindicated. “I felt fresh mentally and physically. I’d had 11 months without a break,” he said. “If I’d known last October [when he was not England captain] what was going to happen, I would have earmarked a rest earlier. I’ve never asked for a break before and Gus [Angus Fraser] was exceptional at Middlesex. It has worked out well.”
Now Morgan looks forward to the five ODIs with a spring in his step. “We have a very exciting group of young cricketers – even outside the 14 in the squad. It’s a very exciting time,” he said. “But we must recognise that this is just the start.”
Smith was equally cagey. As Michael Clarke’s vice-captain he let slip a quote, which was a tad dismissive of his English opponents before the Test series began. Now he acknowledges: “With the newer guys in the team England are now a tough side.”
Smith may have regretted bowling Cameron Boyce, his eighth bowler, since his solitary over went for 19 runs. “It was a tough time for him to bowl,” he said. “But he’s only here for one game so I thought he deserved a crack.”
This match was a fine advert for T20 cricket, a topic which is currently on the agenda among the counties. On Tuesday the ECB will meet the county chief executives and then on Wednesday the county chairmen to discuss the future format of domestic cricket in England. Those in the shires will be eager to learn more about the ECB’s plans to reduce the number of games of Championship cricket as well as their vision for T20.