Eoin Morgan struck a gutsy 107 to make up for England's slow start
England’s limited-overs captain struck a gutsy 107 that was replete with power-hitting down the ground and the deft flicks and dabs that have become his trademark.
Morgan’s 10th ODI hundred helped his side post 296-6, an impressive total given the conditions and the tough start that had seen them reduced to 29-2 after they lost the toss and were asked to bat first.
Much was made of Morgan’s character when he chose to miss his side’s tour of Bangladesh last October because of security fears.
Many thought he would lose respect among his players, all of whom other than opener Alex Hales travelled, and that his captaincy would be irredeemably weakened.
England lost the toss and were made to bat first
However, Morgan appears to have emerged from that episode stronger than ever, this knock in Antigua his second century in three one-day innings following the 102 he scored against India at Cuttack in January.
What might bother Morgan’s critics the most is the fact he showed the one quality here that his detractors accused him of lacking last year – bravery.
The surface at the Sir Vivian Richards offered variable bounce – witness the Shannon Gabriel deliveries that kept low to dismiss Jason Roy and Joe Root early on. The pitch was not dangerous, although the short ball from Gabriel that struck Morgan on the back of the head in the 29th over undoubtedly was.
It was almost a carbon-copy of the delivery that fatally struck Australian batsman Phillip Hughes back in November 2014. Thankfully Morgan was wearing a stem guard – the attachment brought in to protect batsmen after the death of Hughes – and it was that which took the full force of the blow and not the top of the England captain’s neck.
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England headed to Sydney with the 2010-11 Ashes in the bag but a series win was at stake. Hundreds from Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Matt Prior set up a total of 644 before the seamers forced the tourists to an innings win
It meant Morgan, on 48 at the time, needed nothing more serious than treatment and a replacement stem guard before he could resume an innings that illustrated beyond all doubt that he still deserves his place in England’s powerful batting line-up on merit and not just because he is wearing the captain’s armband.
This was not a trademark England innings, the surface dictating that the team who struck an ODI record 444-3 against Pakistan at Trent Bridge last summer had to be rather more circumspect here.
Yet there was still some eye-catching blows from Morgan and Ben Stokes in his first international since landing that £1.7million Indian Premier League windfall last week.
Stokes started off scratchily, needing 26 balls to reach double figures. But the all-rounder smashed the final ball of the 40th over from Jason Mohammed straight back over the spinner’s head for a huge six – England’s first of the innings.
That started the tourists’ charge in the final 10 overs – they scored exactly 100. BY the time Stokes had posted his sixth ODI half-century in nine innings he had bludgeoned two more maximums.
In all the partnership between Stokes and Morgan was worth 110 before the most costly overseas player in IPL history was caught on 55 attempting to hit Devendra Bishoo into the Caribbean Sea.
Morgan’s experience – and value to England – can be summed by the fact that his 173 ODI appearances amount to more than the entire total amassed by this inexperienced West Indies team (157).
The 30-year-old brought up his hundred with a nerveless six off Carlos Brathwaite over deep midwicket. It was some way to reach three figures and although he was run out in the final over, Morgan’s work had already been done.