Concerns over Morgan grow in defeat

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Published: Wednesday 11th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Captain Eoin Morgan will head into the World Cup with concerns over his form after again failing to score as England lost their final warm-up match to Pakistan by four wickets in Sydney.

The left-hander has now been dismissed for three ducks in his past four innings – his other score was just two – since he hit a century to start the tri-series at the SCG.

To add to his problems England failed to secure the back-to-back wins they had targeted at the start of the week after failing to defend 250 for eight.

Half-centuries from Joe Root and Gary Ballance gave them hope – on the same pitch used in Monday’s nine-wicket win over West Indies – and the bowlers then squeezed Pakistan to 78 for four.

But Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Akmal combined in a match-winning 133-run fifth-wicket stand. The unflappable Misbah typically timed the chase to perfection to see his side home with seven balls to spare with an unbeaten 91.

England will now head to Melbourne for their blockbuster World Cup opener against Australia with some headaches to cure – not least the form of their skipper – although at least content they were thrust into a worthwhile contest after West Indies’ meek surrender two days ago.

Morgan was catapulted into the captaincy following the England and Wales Cricket Board’s decision to axe Alastair Cook after his lean tour of Sri Lanka just before Christmas.

But with a 90,000-strong MCG sell-out crowd awaiting them in just three days’ time, the issue of a lack of runs from their leader is back in the spotlight.

Morgan’s latest dismissal came in bizarre style too as his attempted leg-side paddle to a Yasir Shah full toss somehow popped in the other direction to slip.

The similarly out-of-sorts Ravi Bopara also looked scratchy in making 11 from 25 balls, before completely misreading a Shah wrong-un, to make the returning Ballance’s half-century even more timely.

Ballance was playing for the first time since breaking a finger in training at the start of the tour and ground out an 81-ball 57, while Root was the only England batsman to find any flow, hitting 85 from 89 balls.

Stuart Broad also provided further positives, impressing after being handed the new ball for the first time this winter, and hinting he is hitting peak form after knee surgery.

He struck with his first delivery, having Nasir Jamshed well held by James Tredwell at second slip, en route to figures of two for 51.

Broad was one of four changes as England ensured all 15 of their World Cup squad played this week.

That meant Alex Hales also returned alongside Ballance and veteran seamer James Anderson. Ian Bell, James Taylor, Chris Woakes and Steven Finn made way.

Ballance might not have been in the World Cup squad but for Cook’s demotion and, after having to bide his time through injury, he cautiously set about reminding the selectors of his quality.

He built into his innings, scoring just two from his first 17 balls before crashing a cut to the rope, and joined in a 64-run stand with Hales after Moeen Ali was out cheaply offering a leading edge to Ehsan Adil.

Hales managed 31 before he was also victim to a tame dismissal, stroking Shahid Afridi to mid-wicket.

Ballance and Root added the second half-century stand of the innings, from 59 balls, before Ballance’s stay ended on 57 with a sweep to deep square-leg off Shah.

Morgan and Bopara then quickly came and went and when vice-captain Jos Buttler was yorked by Sohail Khan for 13, Root was left to bat with the lower order in the final 10 overs.

He did so effectively, adding 60 from 49 balls with Chris Jordan, to give England a defendable target given the condition of the wicket.

Both Pakistan openers fell early in the reply, Tredwell accepting both sharp catches at second slip, before Ballance then held two more good chances in the deep.

He dived forward at fine-leg after Jordan hurried Younus Khan into a hook and then made good ground when Haris Sohail lofted Tredwell to long-on.

England were on top at that stage, but Misbah combined expertly with Akmal in the the only century partnership of the game.

They picked their moments to clear to ropes, set right back on the vast SCG outfield, and otherwise worked busily to pick off the England attack, especially Jordan in the later overs.

Akmal fell with 40 still needed, edging Broad behind, but Misbah was always intent on remaining until the end.

Published: Wednesday 11th February 2015 by The News Editor

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