An Ode To Eoin

Today we welcome Simon Begley back to TFT. As an Irishman living in England, he’s only got good things to say about our white ball captain. And who can blame him?

Sometime around 2004, a young Surrey player told me about a wonderful left-handed batsman from our home country.

Gary Wilson – who would himself later captain Ireland and Surrey – reckoned he was better than Ed Joyce. At the time, Ed was scoring county runs for fun and had qualified for England. According to Gary, this kid was even better. His name: Simon Be…. oh ok. It’s Eoin Morgan. Obviously.

I started looking out for him and watching him bat whenever I could. And he was good. Really good. He looked like he could be the new Gower. The glorious leftie in England’s middle order. Making Ashes centuries. Captaining England. 

It didn’t quite turn out the way we thought. Morgan played 16 Tests between 2010 and 2012, averaging 30. The highlight was a wonderfully flamboyant 130 against Pakistan at Trent Bridge. I cheered him on in a wonderfully flamb sketchy south London pub. Despite another hundred against India the following summer, Morgan struggled. While two tons in 16 Tests batting at 6 doesn’t sound all that bad, his technique was questioned. And, at the time, not unfairly. When England were spun to buggery in Dubai by Pakistan, he got binned.

Less than nine years later, Eoin Morgan is without question England’s greatest ever white ball cricketer.

Morgan qualified for England in 2009. As Wilson said, he was fiercely talented and was selected for ODIs and T20s soon after. In 2010, he was the only ‘English’ cricketer selected in the IPL. He was at the other end when Colly hit the winning runs in the 2010 T20 World Cup final.

But despite that T20 joy in the West Indies, England were still appalling at the 50 over stuff. And they weren’t learning. The team annihilated by Sri Lanka in the 2011 World Cup (Strauss, Bell, Trott, Bopara, Morgan, Swann, Prior, Wright, Bresnan, Tredwell, Tremlett) wasn’t, philosophically, all that different from the team humiliated by Bangladesh four years later (Ali, Bell, Hales, Root, Morgan, Taylor, Buttler, Woakes, Jordan, Broad, Anderson). No real clarity or purpose in either selection.

Morgan was made ODI captain two months before the 2015 World Cup in Australia. Captain Cook was cooked, and England were already effed down under. The only real surprise was they didn’t let Cook lead England into doom. They asked Morgan to do it instead. And… well hellooooo Bangladesh!!!

At this point, Morgan did what all great players do. He told people how to win and was good enough to show them how to do it.

Before the 2015 World Cup, Morgan averaged 29.4 in T20s and 36.5 in ODIs.

Since then? 31.3 and 43.6.

He’s played 219 ODIs for England and scored 6,854 runs at 40. Only eight England players in history have a higher average. None have more appearances or runs.

He’s played 100 T20s, scoring 2,306 runs at 30.3. Again, no England player has more appearances or runs. Of those who’ve played more than 25 games, only KP has a better average (37.9 in 37 games).

And he’s done all this as captain, when things should be harder. Batting at… well, wherever. One of the outstanding parts of Morgan’s captaincy is his selflessness. If he needs to go up the order to stabilise or attack, he does it. If he needs to drop to allow Bairstow or Stokes to go hit, he does it. And he still scores runs everywhere.

And I mean everywhere. Even when Roy or Buttler are smashing the ball to all corners, there’s a special joy in watching Morgan bat. What we saw 15 years ago has been a little forgotten – just how beautiful a batsman he is. The outrageous reverse sweeps get the attention, but the sublime extra cover lofts and effortless thwacks over midwicket are so pure that the sound off the bat tells you what’s just happened without you needing to look up.

Most importantly – and forgive me for stating the bleedin’ obvious – he shows what it means to lead. Sometimes it’s obvious: smart bowling changes or clever adjustments to the field. Sometimes less so: a calmness, focus, confidence, whether things are going well or badly, all that Kipling shit. Things Hussain, Stewart, and Cook could never do. Certainly not in the heat of an ODI nailbiter.

Which led to… 2019. England men’s first 50 over World Cup. I’ve got to admit I cried. Partly due to a phenomenal hangover, but also because an Irishman was leading a team I genuinely liked, playing a sport I love, in a game for the ages. And later this year, all being well, he’ll repeat the feat in the shorter format.

I don’t think there’s any doubt Morgan is hugely respected by English cricket fans. Is he loved in the same way Botham, Brearley, Vaughan, and even Cook are? Probably not. It’s hard to be sure. I think he’s probably loved more for what he’s brought to England than who he is. But his importance can’t be understated.

Until 2015, England had a batshit crazy approach to one-day cricket. It’s now the outstanding one-day international team. Their batting is relentless, their bowling aggressive, fielding sharp as tacks. Like their captain. Today, India and Australia look to England for white ball innovation, unthinkable six years ago.

Last week, Jos Buttler – the perfect example of a player who’s flourished in the Morgan era, but might have floundered in times past – presented Morgan with his 100th T20 cap. Buttler described Morgan as a “pioneer” of white-ball cricket: “He’s taken English white-ball cricket to a place it’s never been before and I think he’s done that in quite an incredible way.”

Morgan didn’t reinvent himself after Test failure. He was already ahead of his time. But he reinvented English cricket. For that reason, he’s Ireland – and England’s – greatest ever one-day cricketer.

Simon Begley


  • Well, he got the team balance for the series just gone wrong – the sort of thing that if Root does it he gets castigated. His treatment of Sam Curran (and of course Hales) might raise a few questions. BTW was anyone surprised that this series went to a “thrilling” climax of a decider? Like the NZ-A 5 match series just did as well?

    There is plenty of question if Morgan is England’s white-ball GOAT. His teammate Buttler has a strong claim to that title. Gooch appeared in three WC Finals and his 129* in the WI was a greater innings than any Morgan has played. Yet again we get a claim based on bulk – most caps, most runs. How is it so hard to understand that someone playing in an era with this number of games and on a contract that allows him to play very little else can pile on the bulk if he has a bit of luck with injuries?

    Morgan’s achievements in my book are: 1) He’s ended the run of stodgy officer-class opening bat captains that ruined the one-day team (Atherton-Hussain-Vaughan-Strauss- Cook). 2) He got the team genuinely playing without fear whereas previous regimes had said that then bawled out anyone dismissed to an attacking shot. 3) He does appear to have a grasp of the importance of wrist-spin in modern white-ball cricket. It’s a decent record but let’s not go overboard – especially as he’s showing signs of the kind of hubris that England rugby fans will recognise in the post-RWC winners’ set-up.

    • While I agree that Morgan being England’s GOAT is certainly open to question, you’re not reading the piece very carefully if you think that the claim is ONLY about bulk of runs and longevity. Simon explicitly talks also about average, batting-order flexibility, captaincy and being a pioneer. That’s a lot broader based than, say, trying to argue that Walsh was a better bowler than Marshall simply by bulk.

      I’m not terribly convinced with your list of his achievements either. Surely that was Collingwood, on all three fronts? I would have thought that the main difference there is that Morgan has been thoroughly supported by the ECB system whereas Collingwood was…if not obstructed by it, not given the same amount of help at the very least.

  • Greatest ever? No, I’d put Butler in front of Morgan today and in the past, Vic Richards by some distance. Alistair Brown was a sensational one day (and 4 day) cricket player. And really Adam Hollioake would surpass Morgan today as a captain. He’s done well with white ball, trouble is it’s very much forgettable cricket, World Cup aside, but then we didn’t “really” win that did we.

    • Not sure whether you’re being sarcastic about the WC, but I see that argument so often that it drives me mad! England won the WC. End of story. Saying otherwise is to display a lack of knowledge about how sports competitions (or other competitive events) work. It’s like saying that Labour won the 1951 election or that any one of the numerous football teams to have won a knock-out match after a penalty shoot-out didn’t actually win.

      Re the players: he did say England and Ireland’s GOAT, so unless you know something we don’t about Viv….:-) Brown, whatever his strengths in the county game, didn’t quite translate that to ODIs.

      Your Hollioake comment is interesting. My impression is that it’s a little difficult to judge Morgan’s relative greatness as captain because the whole system since 2015–starting with appointing him, where previous regimes might well have binned him for doing disastrously in the WC, regardless of the reasons why that had happened–has been set up to engineer white-ball success in a way that hadn’t come close to happening before. There’s an argument that the real strategist behind all this–from standing behind Morgan to (ironically!) encouraging England players to play in the IPL–was actually not Morgan but Strauss.

      • You can’t really judge Brown and Richards because in their era there was probably less than half the ODI’s played than now. If there were they would have knocked Morgan into a cocked hat because they were far superior players. Brown only played about two ODI’s and for some peculiar reason was ignored by England.

        Ok World Cup, yes a little sacarstic, but England “won” by absurd rules, losing more wickets than NZ, but more boundaries. It’s a bit like getting one more penalty shoot out, but losing because you had more off sides. But it’s an old chestnut and I shouldn’t probably have raised it again.

  • Can’t disagree with most of the above but a shame his batting form deserted him this series and putting himself down to 6 seems an odd move.
    Lumbering him with Curran, a bowler he clearly has little confidence in, having repeatedly not let him complete his overs, didn’t help him stall the Indian batting line up this time.
    I think he is held in the same esteem as test captains, as we’ve been more consistently successful under him than any of the others. Not my view that Brearley or Vaughan are ‘loved’ by the nation in the same way as Botham and Cook seem to be, and indeed Collingwood before him, but he does have a clinical side to both his on and off field personality that comes across as standoffish, strange for an Irishman.

  • I wouldn’t have called Eoin our best ever ODI player, however I decided to do some digging.
    I would argue that his closest competitor is probably Buttler. But Morgan’s record is just as impressive AND over a longer period in which England were rubbish:

    Morgan 242 games, 7600 runs at an average of 40 with 14 hundreds.
    Buttler 145 games, 3850 runs at an average of 40 with 9 hundreds.

    One could argue that Buttler comes in lower down the order, which is true, but Morgan also brings captaincy credentials to the table. He’s a very good captain and this lifts the team as a whole.
    Some people in the media constantly refer to Saint Alastair Cook as England’s greatest ever Test cricketer because he’s scored the most runs. Well, Eoin Morgan has scored the most ODI runs for England. In fact, he’s got one thousand runs more than his nearest rival. He also has the most T20I runs too.
    My conclusion? I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to call Eoin our best white ball player after all.

    • That’s an interesting question–although an interestingly loaded one (in a very modern way!) in that it doesn’t seem to assume that it could be a bowler.

      I think the second string factor is what would have to decide it if you were to go for one of the current set-up: there’s not a whole lot to choose as batsmen, in their different ways, between Morgan, Buttler, Roy, Bairstow and Root (talking of which–I know he wasn’t selected this time for rotation reasons, but on what planet is Sam Billings a better white-ball international batsman than Joe Root, especially for a tournament played in India?)

      But for me it’s none of them. Essentially this, as with a lot of other things to do with the way England play now, especially (but not only) in white-ball, would hardly have been possible without the example of Pietersen…whose record is also better in context than Morgan’s, a lot better in T20s. This is the man who fifteen years ago was reverse-sweeping Muralitharan in a test match when the ICC were wondering whether it was even legal and who was dancing down the pitch in ODIs to play flamingo shots to that well-known medium pacer Brett Lee. He really was ahead of his time.

      • I would also say that Pietersen was probably our best white ball player. I think Eoin probably benefited from playing with him too in his earlier years. They used to get on well too, I recall, although the relationship later cooled when Morgan supported the ECB’s stance on excluding him. At least that’s my recollection.

  • Great article. It’s a shame that Morgan doesn’t get the cricket he deserves in Ireland, outside of the cricket community, which is very small. We won’t see his likes again.

  • Yes Eoin is innovative and he’s led the England team for the first-ever World cup title in 50 over format. This triumph came not just like that. Like Kapil Dev, Morgan made his players believe that they can beat any team and lift the world cup and ultimately won it too, of course, a tinge of criticism that they didn’t win it in great style as only the count of boundaries ultimately decided their title. And T-20 Cup this year to be played in India is also at stake for this team and a strong contender.


copywriter copywriting