As he trotted off the field at Trent Bridge with his first test match hundred in the bag, the smile on Eoin Morgan’s face was telling. Not just relief, it was reassurance that here he had proved beyond all doubt that he belongs in Test cricket.
England have invested plenty of faith in Morgan, and quite understandably so. That talent and temperament which had been on show in limited overs international cricket throughout his formative year have caused quite a stir.
Perhaps Andy Flower, himself a nugget of a left handed batsmen who was adept at manoeuvring all and sundry in all forms of the game sees something of himself in the young Irishman.
But after scores of 37 and 44 against Bangladesh, the question remained, could Morgan make the step up in Test Cricket?
The critics pointed at a technical flaw outside off-stump, a lack of first class cricket where he averaged 24 for Middlesex last year, and an array of unorthodox strokes which could prove his undoing.
But here was an innings which answered many of the doubts, if not all of them. England have rarely seen a batsman perform so well in their international career, less so in all forms of cricket. Pietersen was the last one, but Morgan on this evidence deserves no lesser billing than his counterpart.
While Pietersen’s innings was a scattergun approach, betraying ring rustiness and a lack of preparation, Morgan’s was as cool and collected an innings as any in living memory. The fires of county cricket have warmed him up nicely for this, Pietersen would do well to heed that lesson.
And he needed to be on form, coming in with his team four wickets down and with the bal doing plenty, it needed Morgan to be watchful. So he was, playing watchfully and without alarm.
Then as he saw off the quicker men, he cut loose against the spinners who could not match the pressure of Asif and Aamer. There were shots of all varieties, sweeps, reverse sweeps, cuts and cover drives-the only thing missing was the pull stroke which his critics may argue he still needs to show he can play well, unlike Michael Bevan who he is so often compared to.
Yet this was not a day for the critics, as all doubts melted away. Morgan had performed as England believed he could, with their team in trouble Morgan-ably supported by Collingwood-led his side away from danger, as he has so often already in One Day Cricket.
Suddenly the doubts, the shot selection, the supposed weakness outside off stump and the poor first class records, have simply melted away. When he was asked afterwards what it was about international cricket which so inspired him, he simply shrugged his shoulder’s and smiled.
It was a telling statement if only because it confirmed that Morgan has simply proved himself a man for the big occasion. If England are looking ahead to the Ashes, Morgan has furthered his cause considerably. Because despite the most testing of questions, Morgan appears to have all the answers.