Cardiff: England Twenty20 captain Eoin Morgan thanked his county boss Angus Fraser after marking his return to cricket with a fine 74 in his side’s five-run win over Australia in Cardiff on Monday. (Match report | Scorecard)
Morgan had been struggling for runs at domestic level earlier in the season, averaging 26 in Twenty20, 10.16 in first-class cricket and just 6.66 in the 50-over cup.
He came into the county season having had a busy period where he led England in their woeful 50-over World Cup campaign in Australia and New Zealand before heading to the Twenty20 Indian Premier League.
It led him to ask Fraser, his boss at Middlesex and also an England selector, if he could take some time off from playing for the Lord’s-based county in a bid to get himself in the right frame of mind for England duty.
The result was Monday’s innings and a stand of 135 in just 75 balls with fellow left-hander Moeen Ali (72 not out) that was the centrepiece of England’s 182 for five.
“Before the rest it had been about 11 months since I’d had a break, which is quite a long time to go,” said Morgan.
“If I’d have known I was going to be that busy in October, having the (England) captaincy role as well, I would have earmarked a break before then. I’ve never asked for a break before and this time Gus and Middlesex were exceptional.
“We earmarked this one-day series, I need to be fresh for that, so it’s worked out well.”
Morgan praised the way inexperienced all-rounders David Willey and Ben Stokes bowled at the death.
Australia captain Steven Smith was threatening to win the match off his own bat and had reached 90 off just 53 balls when Willey had him caught at mid-wicket.
Ashes-winner Stokes then held his nerve when, with Australia needing 12 off the last over, he restricted them to six runs.
Stokes also kept his cool to dismiss Nathan Coulter-Nile and complete two run-outs.
“I hadn’t earmarked Ben, before the day had started, for bowling the last over of the game,” Morgan said.
“It was a tough one but he took on the responsibility of bowling that over really well.”
Morgan also praised Willey, who starred in England’s T20 win over New Zealand in June.
“He’s brilliant,” said Morgan.
“A bit like Stokesy he just loves responsibility, he likes the limelight, he doesn’t shy away from taking it on.”
– Smith disappointment –
For Smith there was the double frustration of a defeat and missing out on a maiden T20 hundred.
“I thought we timed our run pretty well. It would have been nice to have been 100 not out and win that game for us but it wasn’t to be,” he said.
“I was disappointed when I got out. I was trying to get the side home and it didn’t work out today.
“They finished off just a little bit better than us with the bat.”
England’s innings also saw leg-spinner Cameron Boyce bowl one over for 19 runs, having travelled to Wales all the way from India, where he was playing for Australia A.
It will likely be his solitary over of the tour as he has not been selected for the upcoming five-match one-day series.
Ali and Morgan were well set when he came on in the 14th over, with Ali striking Boyce for two sixes and a four.
“He was over here for one game and I thought he deserved a crack, and (he) tried to get a wicket,” said Smith.
“It was quite hard going for him and they got him away a bit, but he’ll certainly learn from that and continue to get better.”