Morgan heaps misery on Pakistan
A maiden Test century of astoundingly even temperament by Eoin Morgan allowed England to carve out an enviable position in the first npower Test at Trent Bridge.
When England’s number six entered proceedings at 118 for four, seven overs into the afternoon, there was a palpable opportunity for Pakistan to inflict lasting damage in prime conditions for fast bowling.
But Morgan and a composed but scratchy Paul Collingwood emphatically pulled the rug from under the tourists’ feet in their own contrasting fashions.
Playing just his third Test match, Morgan’s 182-ball innings underlined that the very shots that have established his reputation in one-day cricket should not necessarily be locked away when he pulls on a white shirt.
The Irish left-hander dabbed and reverse-swept to his heart’s content, dominating Pakistan’s ineffective slow bowlers. When the seamers returned late in the day, Morgan simply leant into anything over-pitched.
England closed the opening day on an emphatic 331 for four, with Morgan 125 not out, and Collingwood unbeaten on 81.
Their partnership, worth 213 by the close, was a fifth-wicket record for England against Pakistan, surpassing the 192 made by Denis Compton and Trevor Bailey here on Pakistan’s first tour to these shores in 1954.
In choosing to bat first under cloudy skies, Andrew Strauss delivered the hotly anticipated contest between a settled batting line-up and Pakistan’s creative fast bowlers.
A compelling morning’s cricket ensued. After a moderately wayward start Mohammad Asif rarely relaxed his unerring line around off-stump.
But it was his junior partner, Mohammad Aamer, who caused the watching public to salivate. Just 18 years old, but demonstrating a complete command of swing, Aamer sent back both openers in an effervescent spell before lunch.
Together, Pakistan’s gifted opening pair ensured that the Decision Review System, appearing in an npower Test in England for the first time, was almost constantly referred to.
In light of the considerable swing and seam, Strauss and Alastair Cook preferred to play from the crease and wait for the loose delivery.
Strauss was successful to that end, repeatedly clipping Asif calmly off his hips.
He did, however, win an unexpected reprieve in the fifth over. Having moved to 15, the England captain feathered Aamer’s hooping outswinger, only for a wrong-footed wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal to drop a relatively straightforward catch.
Cook was overly tentative, and it was little surprise to see his nervy 26-ball innings end when he nicked Aamer to first slip.
England needed their number three to offer support, and Jonathan Trott dug out Aamer's yorker the very next ball to start an intelligent and resourceful innings.
Yet amidst the medley of full tosses and leg-side deliveries offered up by Danish Kaneria, he appeared momentarily to have taken Trott’s wicket in the 21st over.
The DRS came to Trott's rescue. The batsman appealed against umpire Asoka de Silva’s lbw and, on replay, it was clear he had inside-edged onto his pad.
The third-wicket partnership rocketed to 51, until the unrelenting Aamer began his second spell and first from the Radcliffe Road End.
Strauss tried to play one of his familiar glides through square, but edged a rising ball through to Kamran, who held on this time. His downfall for 45, on the stroke of lunch, was greeted with a combination of delight and surprise by Pakistan.
In a brief and sketchy knock either side of the interval, Kevin Pietersen’s major achievement was to cause Pakistan to use up both their unsuccessful reviews.
Asif’s first query, to a rejected lbw appeal, looked to be clipping the top of leg stump and the benefit of the doubt was thus given to Pietersen. A shout for caught-behind was also shown to have been bat hitting pad.
It mattered little; Pietersen soon played around an Asif ball that held its line and clipped his inside edge on the way to the stumps.
Trott went five balls later, fatally padding up to an Aamer inswinger. This time his review was futile and England were in potential strife in the 33rd over.
Yet the pressure dissipated remarkably quickly. Aamer and Asif took a well-earned rest, and Collingwood struck the out-of-sorts Umar Gul for two consecutive back-foot cuts.
On came Kaneria and Shoaib Malik, but they were knocked around with ease. Morgan hit the two spinners for five fours in 11 balls, and, as if to remind the audience that he considers no shots off-limits, picked up Kaneria with his trademark reverse-sweep.
Morgan was fortunate to survive another attempted lap off Malik, which appeared to strike him in front, but was instrumental in guiding England to tea without further loss.
Morgan proceeded beyond 44, his previous best in Tests, and then to a first fifty, from 81 balls, striking the first aerial shot of the day off Kaneria.
As the century partnership loomed, Pakistan went to pieces. On a day to forget behind the stumps, even by his own shoddy standards, Kamran missed a golden opportunity to dismiss a charging Collingwood on 48.
Bowler Kaneria, who watched three catches go down in last winter’s Sydney Test, cannot have been all that surprised.
In desperation, the leg-spinner switched to around the wicket, and admittedly had Morgan lbw for 78, only for the batsman to be reprieved on review.
With Asif and Gul dropping disappointingly short with the old ball, any possibility of nervous nineties for this confident 23-year-old proved to be fanciful.
Morgan brought up his hundred, only his seventh at first-class level, by standing still and hauling Malik straight into the Radcliffe Road stand with his 115th ball.
When Pakistan’s last hope, the second new ball in the hands of the previously unplayable Asif, disappeared repeatedly to the cover boundary, Morgan’s control was total.