England have come a long way in the last five years. When they were knocked out of the 2015 World Cup, having beaten only Scotland and Afghanistan in the group stage, English white-ball cricket hit a new low. Now, they are world champions and have one of the most dangerous one-day sides in the world.
Of course, the fact that they won just two games at that World Cup only tells half the story. Just three months before the tournament, Alastair Cook was replaced as ODI captain by Eoin Morgan. Despite promising a more dynamic brand of cricket, Morgan was taking over an old-fashioned side, who were still targeting 300 while the rest of the world were looking for 400.
This showed in the results. England were rolled over for just 123 in their second match against New Zealand, who raced to the total in just 12.2 overs, the rate of which England could only dream of. Against Sri Lanka, they managed 309 only to see their opponents chase it down with nearly three overs to spare with the loss of just one wicket.
The change to the quality and brand of cricket we see from England now has been extraordinary and is largely down to their captain. Of course, the decision to select specialist white-ball players made a huge difference but they found a real leader in Eoin Morgan. His attitude was one of ‘no-fear’. He wanted his players to go and play positive, aggressive cricket regardless of the situation, even if it meant taking risks.
The results were immediate. In their first game after that World Cup, England made 400 for the first time in ODIs, playing against New Zealand. In fact, nine of England’s ten highest ODI totals have come since the 2015 World Cup. There has been a similar improvement in T20 cricket, with all four of England’s highest scores in that format coming since the 2015 World Cup.
Eoin Morgan has built a side who play without pressure, even in the biggest moments. It has been five years since they last lost a bilateral ODI series at home, and their dramatic World Cup win last year sealed a magnificent turn around in form for his side.
At that World Cup last summer, England found themselves on the brink of elimination, needing to beat India and New Zealand to reach the semi-finals. Eoin Morgan made sure his side stuck to their guns, and it was the brand of cricket they mastered in the previous four years that got them over the line.
Eoin Morgan has also instilled a belief in this England side that they can win from any position in a game. It looked like the World Cup final was beyond them on more than one occasion but England always felt like they could still win the game. Twice in the ongoing series in Australia, in the first T20 and the second ODI, the tourists have appeared to have been strolling to victory, only to be pulled back by two stunning England turnarounds.
In both those games, Eoin Morgan got it tactically spot on. During the weekend’s ODI with Australia, he bowled out his two most dangerous bowlers, Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes, with 15 overs still remaining in the innings. Ten years ago, captains would have been expected to save their best bowlers some overs for the end of the innings but had he done that, the game would have been over. Very few captains would have taken the risk but it worked for him.
It’s also worth looking at what Archer said following the game. He stated that Eoin Morgan would allow him almost complete control of his fields when he was bowling as he knows that the experience of his players is one of the strengths of his side.
There is a time for Eoin Morgan to take control of things but when he has world-class bowlers at his disposal with experience at the highest level, he would be a fool not to use that.
Eoin Morgan is in the form of his life
Eoin Morgan is in the form of his life with the bat as well. Last year, he averaged over 52 in ODIs with a strike rate of 112. During his 148 against Afghanistan, he struck at incredible 17 sixes, the most by anyone in an ODI innings. That power hitting has helped his game in T20 cricket too. He averages nearly 40 over the last two years, with a strike rate upwards of 170.
Eoin Morgan will certainly lead England into the next T20 World Cup and probably the one after that too. The big question is whether he will be available for the 2023 World Cup in India. He will be 36 by then and although that may not be too much of a problem, the back issues that have begun to appear in recent years may be. If he is fit though, he will be picked because of his batting and captaincy.