Not too long ago, every English cricket fan was disenchanted with Eoin Morgan’s leadership skills and the way he batted. That also led to England’s infamous exit from the 2015 ICC World Cup in New Zealand and Australia. The hosts, particularly New Zealand, emerged as a dominant force under their combative captain Brendon McCullum. From an abject World Cup challenge, things have undergone a welcome change for English cricket in a short time. In the Royal London ODI-series underway at England, Morgan has assumed command. The England captain was truly instrumental in successfully leading his team to a nearly impossible 350-run chase in the fourth ODI on June 17, 2015 at Trent Bridge with a brisk century that inspired the confidence of his colleagues. It was not a one-off effort from Eoin Morgan because in the four ODI matches so far, he has crossed fifty four times, something no England captain has done earlier. After scoring 349/7 in 50 overs, McCullum would have felt safe but little did he know that England would bounce back so authoritatively to not only overhaul the target in a monstrous chase but would to do so with six overs to spare! The New Zealand skipper had won the toss and all his top-order batsmen got among the runs. Any team, which sets a 350-run victory target for the opponents will automatically feel safe and all McCullum required was to contain the runs. At the end, however, it transpired that nothing was safe. England began with 97/0 in the power-play session and snatched the advantage from the Kiwis with two centuries; one from Morgan and the other from the irrepressible Joe Root. England’s victory has taken the ODI series into the decider at Chester-le-Street on Saturday.
McCullum’s decision to bat first after winning the toss was completely justified. Beginning with an opening wicket stand of 88 between himself and Martin Guptill, the innings flourished with every Kiwi batsman contributing significantly. McCullum himself didn’t last longer than his 31-ball 35 but Guptill crossed fifty and Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Grant Elliott ad Mitchell Santner all added to the New Zealand’s final total of 349/7. In the ODI format, such score can out-rightly be termed as a strongly challenging total, whoever might be the opponent. Even Brendon McCullum, who has seen many seasons in his long and illustrious cricketing career, could not have foreseen the shape of things to come, when England came on to chase.
To McCullum’s surprise, England’s openers Alex Hales and Jason Roy began explosively and raced to 97/0 in the 10 power-play overs. New Zealand bowlers failed to impress Hales and Roy during their partnership of 100 runs. There was a little glitch in the 11th and the 13th overs, when both openers departed in quick succession. However, if New Zealand harbored any hope of a turnaround, that remained confined to wishful thinking. Eoin Morgan and Joe Root took over from Hales and Roy. The two batsmen blasted the Kiwi bowlers and went on until 309 in the 40th over, when Morgan got out after scoring 113 off 82 balls with 12 fours and 5 sixes. Root continued with Ben Stokes until the end and took England to a 7-wicket victory with 36 balls still remaining in the innings. Root ended with an unbeaten 106 off 97 balls and made the win look like a child’s play. With the ODI series standing at 2-2, the fifth match on Saturday could be a cracker of a game. England would like to reaffirm their newly acquired ODI superiority while McCullum would prefer to head home with at least an ODI series win in his pocket, though a solitary T20 game at Manchester still remains after that.