KP Can Lead
Comment and Analysis | 7th May 2010
Two innings from Eoin Morgan have this week seen him lauded by the national press and catapulted forward as English cricket’s next big thing.
Yet while the Irish-born player clearly has star potential, it is another more recognisable and established batsman who could hold the key to the ICC World Twenty20 chances of Paul Collingwood’s men.
Morgan travelled to the West Indies with a reputation as an inventive and audacious strokemaker in the shortest form of the game.
His abilities had already been underlined with 85 against South Africa in Johannesburg in November and 67 not out against Pakistan in Dubai in February, both to set up victories.
And in the past five days he has exploded onto television sets across the world with contrasting knocks against the West Indies and then the country of his birth.
Against the home nation, Morgan came in with his side going well and powered three sixes and three fours on his way to a 35-ball 55.
As it turned out, England were defeated despite scoring a mammoth 191-5, though captain Collingwood would insist that was as much down to the rain and Duckworth/Lewis system as their own bowling.
"No ifs, no buts, Pietersen remains central to the England batting in all forms of cricket."
Against Ireland, Morgan came to the wicket with England in trouble on 32-3 and played a patient, but equally effective, knock of 45 from 37 balls, with five boundaries.
That game also ended up being dominated by the weather – and allowed England to scrape through their group into the Super Eights at the expense of the Emerald Isle by virtue of a superior run rate.
Those performances mean Morgan, without question, has been a key performer for England so far, a real find.
But yesterday’s first game at the business end of the tournament, against Pakistan, saw a different figure come to the fore – a certain Kevin Pietersen.
The one-time Nottinghamshire favourite was not at his swashbuckling best with the West Indies and Ireland in opposition, contributing scores of only 24 and nine respectively.
But, as the adage goes, it’s hard to keep a good man down and KP took charge of the game against Shahid Afridi’s side with a commanding 73 not out.
After restricting Pakistan to 147-9 in Barbados – Notts players Stuart Broad, Ryan Sidebottom and Graeme Swann were all among the wickets – he made the run chase a stroll with masterly 52-ball knock containing eight fours and two maximums.
Such an innings should really come as no surprise, given that Pietersen appears to be rediscovering his best touch.
And let’s not forget, even when the Hampshire player is considered out of form, he is still better than most.
Quite apart from Pietersen’s favourable overall Twenty20 average for England of 34.95, he showed ominous signs of hitting top gear in the recently finished Indian Premier League.
Although he played just seven of the 16 matches contested by his club, the Royal Challengers Bangalore, he still managed to notch 236 runs at an average of 59.00 to top their batting averages.
No ifs, no buts, Pietersen remains central to the England batting in all forms of cricket.
Should he reproduce his best in matches against first South Africa on Saturday and then New Zealand on Monday, then hopes of bringing the winners’ trophy back to these shores will be greatly enhanced.
Yes, Morgan – along with Michael Lumb, Craig Kieswetter, Collingwood and England’s all-rounders – are going to have to hit their straps too, as are the bowling attack. No one player can carry a team to glory.
However, like Wayne Rooney for the football team later this summer, it’s crucial to have your best player at his peak.
And few would disagree that, in cricketing terms, Pietersen at his bludgeoning best is well deserving of such a tag.