Openers boost England dream
DURHAM • England captain Eoin Morgan saw his team play some of their best cricket in their last two group games to make the semi-finals of the World Cup after 27 years.
Back-to-back defeats by Sri Lanka and Australia had jeopardised the hosts’ prospects.
But they bounced back in style, ending India’s unbeaten run on Sunday and then crushing New Zealand on Wednesday to storm into the last four.
Morgan said the hosts would draw a lot of inspiration from the two dominant performances.
“I think we do tap into what we have achieved the last two games,” he said after England spanked New Zealand by 119 runs.
“It’s been extremely important to our campaign.
“It is obviously the reason that we have got through and we have been able to play some of our best cricket because of that.”
A common factor in both the victories was the flying start England got from openers Jonny Bairstow (106), who smashed his second successive century in the 305 for eight win on Wednesday, and Jason Roy (60), who made a roaring return from a hamstring injury against India.
“We bat all the way down, but those two are pushing the ceiling as to what guys can normally do,” Morgan said. “It’s incredible the talent they possess.”
More than the runs they scored, Morgan was pleased with how the openers complemented each other, with their 10th century partnership in 31 innings .
He explained: “One of the things that sort of stands out for me, in great partnerships, is that both of them ebbed and flowed.
“Jonny got off to a flyer, Jason was quite slow to start and then caught up and Jonny slowed down.
“It was really brilliant to watch because normally you have two guys competing with each other the whole time, trying to get ahead.”
Whether his team will be good enough to progress beyond the semi-finals remains to be seen, but playing under this kind of pressure in consecutive games cannot have done them any harm.
Confidence is high again and, if they ever doubted they could win their first World Cup, that doubt has evaporated.
The cards also fell nicely for Morgan throughout the day.
He won a good toss on a gorgeous Durham morning and enjoyed early use of the pitch when it was at its best.
Runs scored by England’s opening partnership of Jonny Bairstow (106) and Jason Roy (60) in the 119-run win over New Zealand.
It was much easier for his batsmen to try to play their natural game without the added weight of a run chase; their three defeats had come batting second.
At one stage, they were going so well that the final score of 305 felt underwhelming, but the story of this World Cup is that such a total is usually sufficient, especially on a surface like Wednesday’s that slowed appreciably as the game wore on.
It also helped that they had a fortunate one-fingered run-out of Kane Williamson, the Black Caps captain and their leading runs scorer at the Cup, at the non-striker’s end for 27 by Mark Wood.
He got a faint touch on Ross Taylor’s drive to deflect the ball onto the stumps in his follow-through. It needed a slow-motion review by the umpires to confirm the touch.
England will play either India or Australia in their last-four match at Edgbaston, where they have not lost in 10 matches in all formats.
“Yeah, it’s a place that we really like playing,” Morgan said.
“If we had a choice of… Edgbaston, The Oval and Trent Bridge would probably be the three grounds. So it is comforting that we are going to one of those three grounds.”
REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON
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