The captain also hinted that England could go into the match with an unchanged batting side despite three heavy losses in the competition to Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. England need to win both their final two matches, against Bangladesh and, in Sydney later in the week, Afghanistan, if they are to qualify for a Melbourne quarter-final, probably against India.
In the last game, which Sri Lanka won by 9 wickets, the England bowlers failed to defend 318, the second successive match in which they had posted in excess of 300, considered the bare minimum on good pitches these days. Only three times in this World Cup has a side failed to defend 300 or more, but poorly as England bowled, the fact that they are one of these losing sides appears not to concern Morgan. Instead he took the positives. “It was the second time we had scored 300,” said the England captain. “Joe Root’s hundred was magnificent and the way Jos Buttler played at the end was outstanding and our last 10-12 overs were brilliant and backing that up after Scotland was very important for us as a side.”
England though should have scored more runs than they managed (nine of the totals of 300 plus have been 330 or more) and the form of Gary Ballance, batting at three, ought to be a cause for concern. The Yorkshire left hander, who enjoyed a prolific summer, has scored only 36 runs at an average of 9, and a strike rate of 50. Alex Hales could be considered instead, but Morgan emphasises his support for Ballance. “I think the decision we made to put Gary at three was a huge one and, given that there wasn’t very much between him and Alex, Gary got the nod. It was a feeling at the time and a lot of people would agree with me in saying that if we had gone with Alex you wouldn’t have been surprised. But people can be twice the player when they are not playing particularly when someone is not doing well. Alex is working tremendously hard and if given the chance I’m sure he would take it.”
“Before the Sri Lanka game I re-emphasised Gary’s strength – you never lose that and we are four games in now and one game further down the road of how Gary is at. We will assess over the next couple of days. It is a big decision to change anyone in the side and it won’t be taken lightly and it won’t be made quickly. I think Gary has been a bit unlucky in the way he has got out. Go back to the first game against Australia where he chipped on to midwicket, the other day an inside edge went straight back to the bowler. He is very disappointed with where he’s at the moment.”
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