Sunday 17 December 2017

Cricket: Dubliner Eoin Morgan inspires England against Australia at Lords

EOIN Morgan top-scored in England's workmanlike 272 for five in today's first NatWest Series match against Australia at Lord's.

England were hampered by initially awkward conditions, on a fair pitch but under heavy cloud cover, and it was thanks to openers Ian Bell and Alastair Cook and then Jonathan Trott (54) and especially Morgan (89no) that they mustered a near-par total.

The latter served his adopted country particularly well with an expertly-paced contribution containing five fours and four sixes from just 63 balls.

Bell and Cook dug out a sound start with an opening stand of 74, after England were put in under floodlights.

The openers had to contend with a series of stoppages for rain but still managed to negotiate some well-directed new-ball bowling.

England's stop-start beginning, with three rain breaks in the first six overs, featured two close calls for Bell.

First, in the absence of any boundaries against the accuracy of Brett Lee and Clint McKay, he was fortunate there was no direct hit from Pat Cummins at mid-on as he scampered for a faulty single to double his score.

Then on three he walked off with Cook and the Australia fielders as rain fell, unsure whether he would return as third umpire Marais Erasmus considered Bell's review of Richard Kettleborough's caught-behind decision.

He survived, though, having apparently made no contact with a delivery which jagged up the slope from McKay.

There was still no boundary off the bat, until the fourth ball of the seventh over - teenage fast bowler Cummins' first - which Bell mis-pulled over the wicketkeeper's head.

It was Bell too who produced the first two fours of any authority, over extra-cover and down the ground from successive balls off McKay.

But England's momentum was checked again when Bell went lbw to the returning Lee - an apparently straightforward decision, although 'snicko' later suggested an inside-edge.

It would have been two wickets in two balls, had Matthew Wade held a near routine catch down the leg-side when Cook edged Shane Watson.

The drop was not costly, Cook edging Cummins to the wicketkeeper via an attempted drive at a wide one - and when Ravi Bopara nicked the first ball of McKay's second spell to Michael Clarke at slip, England's specialist batting resources were in danger of dwindling.

Trott had escaped a run-out on 15, when Cummins' aim was off again, and England needed him and Morgan to provide some substance.

They did so in a partnership of 68, which included a successful batting powerplay worth 40 runs and saw Trott past a hard-working 50 from 65 balls.

It was a blow to England when Trott yorked himself at the start of Xavier Doherty's final spell, from the first ball of the last 10 overs.

But Morgan engineered an impressive late charge in company with Craig Kieswetter, including two consecutive sixes over wide long-on off Lee, as the highest stand of the innings kept England in the game at least.

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