Thursday 26 April 2018

Cricket: Dazzling Morgan shines flattering light on Irish Test ambitions

Eoin Morgan's success can launch a new era for Irish cricket, says John Chambers

There are era-defining moments in cricket. And with Eoin Morgan's 130 against Pakistan, we may have seen one of them.

People talk about Shane Warne's 'ball of the century' to dismiss Mike Gatting -- and that ushered in not only a great career, but a redefinition of leg spin.

Perhaps those who saw Don Bradman walk out to bat may equally have known they were in the presence of greatness: a man so gifted that his opponents had to invent an entirely new way to bowl at him -- a method so controversial that it nearly ruptured relations between England and Australia.

Is it premature to put Morgan's innings in that light? Of course it is. And yet . . .

And yet his innings may have redefined how the world looks at Irish cricket. You can take all the great Irish performances -- from the win against Pakistan and the tie with Zimbabwe in the last World Cup to the famous performance when they bowled out the West Indies for 25 -- and see them as the headline news they were because of their rarity.

Morgan, though, offers something different: the prospect of Irish success at the highest level on an ongoing basis. The Test success has followed the one-day plaudits just as surely as the textbook drives have followed the reverse sweeps. And if Morgan can stay in the team, and on top of his game, he makes a case not only for himself but for the system that produced him. Runs for Morgan will provoke not just cheers across the water but also whispers about Test status for the country that nurtured him.

What was unthinkable even five years ago was discussed on Sky only a few weeks ago, a discussion prompted by the case of Morgan. And Trent Johnston has pointed to another sign of hope. He told Setanta only last week that he believes Morgan will be the last Irish cricketer forced to play for another country by the structure of the game. The new contract system in Irish cricket will help with that.

That is how he can be era-defining. That is how he is different to what has gone before. While many will think of this generation -- the O'Briens, Boyd Rankin, William Porterfield and the rest -- as the first to break into county cricket, that is not the case. Dermot Monteith was there ahead of them. Morgan is not even the first Irishman to score a Test century for England. His achievement last week brought to light the

ghost of Frederick Fane, who managed it in 1906.

But it is the level of attention and achievement that Morgan brings -- and perhaps others will follow; look out for George Dockrell -- that can redefine the game in Ireland, and Irish cricket in the rest of the world.

Those who have gone before -- Jimmy Boucher, Alec O'Riordan, Dougie Goodwin -- were all fantastic cricketers whose successes were never fully granted the credit they were due, partly because they so rarely performed on a big enough stage.

Enter, stage left, Morgan, a man who can not only play a leading role, but inspire the building of a new theatre, and put bums on the seats.

Sunday Independent

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