Morgan's reputation continues to grow
Eoin Morgan still feels a distance from establishing his place in the England team despite turning in another impressive display to help down South Africa in the opening Twenty20 international at the Wanderers.
The Middlesex batsman trained with the rest of his team at Centurion ahead of their second and final 20-over encounter tomorrow, but there were three notable absentees in Paul Collingwood, James Anderson and Graeme Swann.
Twenty20 captain Collingwood sat out practice as a precaution after waking up with a stiff back following his half-century last night, while Anderson, who missed the final warm-up game against South Africa A on Tuesday due to soreness in his right knee, was also given time off alongside Swann (side).
The trio face fitness tests tomorrow but, despite their absence, the mood in the camp was still positive after what victory in their first competitive match of the tour.
Irish left-hander Morgan was named man of the match after a thrilling 85 not out from 45 balls helped set the tourists up for a one-run win under the Duckworth-Lewis method.
Morgan’s second Twenty20 innings for his adopted country since making the switch from Ireland was the highest score by an England player in the shortest form of the game, surpassing Collingwood's 79 against West Indies in 2007.
Although he struck seven fours and five sixes, Morgan still believes he has some to go before he can be recognised as a first-team regular.
He said: “I think it’s contributed towards it; I think I’m far from cementing my place in the side.
“It’s a building block towards where I want to be, but I was certainly happy with the way I did play. But I’ve only played a handful of games and I’ve still a long way to go.”
Morgan was given fine support by Collingwood, who made 57 off 32 balls and shared in a thrilling stand of 98 off just 55 deliveries for the fourth wicket, as England totalled 202 for six – their highest Twenty20 international total.
The hosts were 127 for three after 13 overs in response when rain ended the game and, despite the manner of victory, it did not dampen England’s celebrations.
Asked if victory had a positive psychological effect, 23-year-old Morgan said: “Yeah, I think so. It was a good game of cricket and very exciting.
“We’ve certainly put a positive slant on the series to come with the way we batted, the way we bowled and the way we fielded.”
Eight of the nine sixes during England’s innings came off the fast bowlers, while Dale Steyn, Albie Morkel and Charl Langeveldt conceded more than 110 runs between them in their 10 overs.
Asked whether there was a particular plan to target Steyn, South Africa’s premier paceman, Morgan added: “No, certainly not. It was just that the wicket happened to be good and I didn’t think he bowled particularly well.
“We don’t target any bowlers at all. We were just happy to go out there and win.”
Graeme Smith recognised that South Africa will have to take note of Morgan - his knock was a second consecutive fifty against the Proteas, following his 67 to help knock them out of the Champions Trophy.
“He’s a dynamic player in that middle order,” said the Proteas skipper. “He’s one of those players that has really transformed England in the shorter formats of the game.
“From my perspective, it’s a realisation that it is going to be a tough series. It’s going to be good and exciting – England have come here to play.
“We’ve got to improve still on our bowling department - the execution of some of the plans. I think it just bodes well for an exciting performance on Sunday.”