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England captain Eoin Morgan has admitted that he could take the unprecedented step of dropping himself during the tournament if his form does not improve during the T20 World Cup.
Morgan’s form is a cause of concern for England, after he only averaged 11.1 over 17 games for Kolkata Knight Riders in the recent Indian Premier League season, when he captained Kolkata to the final. With Moeen Ali thrashing 43 not out from 20 balls against India in England’s opening World Cup warm-up game to further his claims for a place in the top six, Morgan’s spot at number six is coming under increased scrutiny. He said that he could consider dropping himself from England’s 11 later on in the World Cup if his form did not improve.
“It’s always something I’ve said – it’s always an option,” Morgan said. “I’m not going to stand in the way of a team winning the World Cup. I’ve been short of runs but my captaincy has been pretty good as it goes so yes is the answer.”
Were Morgan to drop himself from the team during a match, Jos Buttler - England’s vice-captain and Morgan’s probable long-term successor as limited overs captain - would step up to lead the side. But Morgan has a history of coming out of runs of bad form, and backs himself to do so again during the World Cup, pointing out that batting at number six is a volatile role as batsmen seldom get much time to play themselves in.
“I wouldn’t be standing here if I hadn’t come out of every bad run of form that I’d ever had,” Morgan said. “The nature of T20 cricket and where I bat means I always have to take quite high-risk options and I’ve come to terms with that. It’s just something you deal with, it’s the nature of the job so I’m going to continue taking those risks if the team dictates they need them, if they don’t I won’t.”
Morgan also said that, despite a slight relaxation of the biosecure conditions in the UAE which allows players to be accompanied by their families, players could not continue to endure such conditions indefinitely.
“Yes, they are getting more lenient but it’s coming up to a quite considerable period of time we have been adhering to all of these,” he said. “I don’t think they can last much longer because it’s just not sustainable to ask human beings to do this and then go on and perform well at a high level.”
England to resume taking knee against West Indies
England’s cricketers will take the knee for the first time since August last year ahead of their T20 World Cup opener against the West Indies on Saturday.
Skipper Eoin Morgan confirmed that both teams will perform the anti-racism gesture together in Dubai. “We have heard from the West Indies that they will be taking a knee and we will be joining them for the first game,” Morgan said.
England have not taken the knee since the last one-day international against Ireland in August 2020. West Indies T20 captain Kieron Pollard last week told of his side’s plans to take the knee during the tournament, which sparked discussions with England over a joint gesture.
England are still considering what they will do in their subsequent fixtures. Since stopping taking the knee last summer, England have used other methods to protest against discrimination, wearing T-shirts sporting messages against any racism, religious intolerance, sexism and other anti-discrimination slogans during the Test series against New Zealand last summer.
“We've been speaking to the ICC about the potential moment of unity before the game that we've been doing as part of our own piece at home,” Morgan said. “It hasn't been cleared up yet whether that's a possibility or not.”
England’s opening World Cup clash with the West Indies will be the first meeting between the sides in any format since England hosted the West Indies in three Tests last summer, which came after George Floyd’s death at the hands of a police officer in Minnesota sparked a new wave of Black Lives Matter protests. During the Test series in 2020, both teams took the knee before the start of each game.
England’s decision to stop taking the knee last year attracted criticism, notably from former West Indies Test great Michael Holding. “If you don’t want to recognise the movement then say that and don’t come up with lame excuses,” Holding said. “I know that the excuses and reasons are a bit flimsy. They need to come forward with something better than that.”
Ahead of England’s final warm-up match, against New Zealand in Abu Dhabi, England have no injury concerns, with Liam Livingstone fully recovered from a finger area sustained in the warm-up defeat to India. Morgan confirmed that he will return to the XI, after being rested from Monday’s match. That will leave England with a decision over who Morgan replaces in the side, with the two likeliest options him replacing batsman Dawid Malan or coming in from a bowler, giving England a different balance to their side.
Scotland one win away from history
Scotland will play the biggest Twenty20 match in their history on Thursday, knowing that victory will guarantee them a berth in the second stage of a World Cup for the first time ever and mark a major step forward in their aspirations to become the next Full Member of the International Cricket Council.
Thursday's match with Oman in Muscat on Thursday looms as a winner-takes-all clash, with the victors advancing to the Super 12 stage while the losers face being eliminated.
After their six-run victory over Bangladesh, Scotland completed their second consecutive win in the T20 World Cup on Tuesday, defeating Papua New Guinea by 17 runs. But Scotland’s two narrow victories so far mean that they almost certainly need to secure a third straight win to avoid being eliminated on net run rate. Oman pushed Bangladesh close in a 26-run defeat, and will present a major challenge for Scotland.
Should Scotland defeat Oman and qualify, it would be among the most significant achievements in Scottish cricketing history. Scotland had only won a solitary game in either the ODI or T20 World Cup before this edition of the World Cup. After a run of 20 World Cup losses in a row, Scotland have now won three consecutive World Cup games, with the victories over Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea following the win over Hong Kong in the first stage of the 2016 T20 World Cup.
Scotland’s win over Papua New Guinea was built on Richie Berrington continuing his brilliant form. Berrington hit 70 off 49 balls from No 4, including a 97-metre six, to take his T20 international tally in 2021 to 342 runs at 68.4 apiece. His 92-run third-wicket partnership with Matt Cross set up Scotland’s 165-9. A frenetic end to the innings - six wickets fell in a surreal final two overs - prevented Scotland from reaching the 180 that had seemed within reach.
Seam bowling has generally been Scotland’s strength at Associate level. It proved so again as Brad Wheal, Josh Davey and Ali Evans combined to reduce Papua New Guinea to 35-5 after the Powerplay, abetted by a run-out from Michael Leask and an outstanding catch from Berrington at backward point.
Papua New Guinea’s early collapse seemed to put Scotland within reach of the emphatic victory that they needed to boost their net run rate in case of defeat to Oman. Norman Vanua’s 47, which gave Papua New Guinea a brief chance of a remarkable comeback win and limited Scotland's victory margin to 17, may yet prove decisive for Scotland's fate in the competition.
It is perhaps a measure of Scotland’s heightened ambitions that captain Kyle Coetzer and head coach Shane Burger both said that the team failed to match the quality of the performance against Bangladesh, with the batting at the death and catching highlighted. “There are a few things for us to look at going into our last game but I am very happy with where we are,” Coetzer said.
Qualification for the Super 12s would guarantee Scotland five more plum fixtures in the competition. If they defeat Oman, Scotland will top their group, placing them in Group 2 of the Super 12s, where they would meet India, Pakistan, New Zealand, Afghanistan and another qualifier from the first stage. Should they qualify for the Super 12s, Scotland would also automatically qualify for next year’s T20 World Cup in Australia, bringing further extra exposure for the national team and funding from the ICC.
Scotland have already declared their aspirations to being the 13th Full Member of the ICC - although this would likely only see them play limited-overs cricket, and not Test matches. A strong performance in the World Cup will significantly strengthen their claims of following in the footsteps of Ireland, who gained Full Member status in 2017. By dint of their Full Member status, Ireland receive significant extra funding from the ICC - around £4 million a year, about four times what Scotland receive - as well as extra fixtures.