Eoin Morgan’s England hit 25 sixes off Afghanistan! And Morgan alone hit 17 of them. And just four fours!
Don’t rub your eyes, there’s no mistake. 4 x 4, 17 x 6!
That is what the England captain produced in a blistering, whirlwind of an innings during his team’s 150-run victory over Gulbadin Naib’s side at Old Trafford on Tuesday. Morgan’s 13th ODI century reminded me of Christopher Columbus’ 15th and 16th century attitude to the natives in the Antilles.
He didn’t mean to kill them but what was he to do if it was the only way to achieve his goal of finding El Dorado?
After all, England expects every man to do his duty and nothing must stand in the way. Certainly not sentiment!
I say ‘off the Afghans’ but not ‘against Afghanistan.’ Those of us for whom captain’s minds are important— someday including, I hope, those who regularly report on cricket in the local media—know that, in this record-breaking film, the unfortunate Afghans were nothing but extras. Collateral damage. England were neither playing against them nor playing with them; they were simply toying with them.
Morgan saw himself as making a film for the benefit—using the word very loosely—of India’s Virat Kohli and Australia’s Aaron Finch. And for all those others who will be directly involved in developing strategy and tactics for the semi-finals and finals.
If he has had his way, they are all already scratching their heads. Some may even be quaking in their boots!
Batten down the hatches! Hurricane Morgan is heading your way!
Understandably, in my view, New Zealand’s Kane Williamson added his name to the list of Morgan’s recipients. In the Kiwis’ face-off against South Africa in Birmingham yesterday, he sought to fashion a riposte; he managed only a response.
Compared to Morgan’s thunderous 77-ball 148, Williamson’s effort barely qualifies as a stiff breeze. It is true that his 106 off 138 balls with nine fours and a single six—in the last over, no less!—did blow South Africa’s house down. But the way the Proteas have been playing in this World Cup, had they been in his line of fire, one of Keith Smith’s famous farts would probably have produced the same result.
There was a period in the early stages of that game when Faf du Plessis’ side looked as if they would be unable to bat their way out of a paper bag. Rassie van der Dussen (67 off 64, 2 x 4, 3 x 6) and David Miller (36 off 37, 2 x 4, 1 x 6) changed that towards the end of the innings.
But, on a day when the talented Williamson sought—but failed really—to send his own strongly worded message to the Big Three, the Proteas’ eventual total of 241 for 6 proved to be vastly insufficient. And the Kiwis got home to a 4-wicket win.
At least one online story writer sought to persuade himself that South Africa had come close to salvaging something from this game. And, perhaps, from this World Cup.
In an unpublished piece, I reminded the Proteas supporters that this is the age of rampant identity theft. Someone in the South African camp who remains so far unidentified—after yesterday, David Miller is the prime suspect—is really the Murphy of Murphy’s Law fame in disguise.
Back to Morgan. His intentions on Tuesday went undisguised. I did not hear any of the commentators use the word ‘murderous’ to describe his assault on the innocent—in more senses than one!—Afghans; it would have been inaccurate anyway, well, not entirely accurate. Morgan was, I reckon, positively genocidal.
You could see it coming. It was immediately after the West Indies’ game on Monday when I joked that Naib’s minnows ran the risk of making negative history. They might become, I ventured to suggest, the first side to suffer the ignominy of a declaration against them in a One-day game.
On Tuesday, Morgan took us as close as is possible without quite getting there. England’s 397 was almost 50 better than the 352 India made against Australia, then the next highest score by any other team in the tournament so far.
The bad news for Morgan—and for Afghanistan!—is that next up for Naib’s already battered troops is India on Saturday. More than the most macocious cricket reporter, Kohli is obsessed with the insides of the opposing captain’s head so Morgan’s intended message was certainly not lost on him.
In the old days of five Test-playing countries, touring teams would, cricket lore has it, contrive to make a bowler known to be a prospect for the home side’s Test team look better than he was, effectively earning him selection.
I think what we witnessed on Tuesday was a brutal variation on that theme, an attempt to affect the selection of the opposing team(s).
England have generally been at their most destructive against the faster stuff. Joe Root may not have a clear preference but Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes smack their lips at the sight of quickies.
Jasprit Bumrah, the Indian skipper has said, is his trump card. However, who has been holding the fort for India in the crucial second powerplay? You’ve guessed it! Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav. Spinners!
And which bowler posted a century during the Morgan blitzkrieg? Rashid Khan, a spinner!
Coincidence? I doubt it.
So might we see Adam Zampa making room for Jason Behrendorff when Australia face off against Morgan’s men at Lord’s on 25 June? I doubt it.
Or, in India vs England at Edgbaston on 30 June, Kuldeep or Chahal making way for Mohammad Shami. I doubt it.
But the answer is still blowing in the winds of the hurricane that devastated Afghanistan on Tuesday.
And the fearsome cyclone that promises to blow them off the cricketing map on Saturday.