Eoin Morgan explains why England stuck to the same formula in ‘frustrating’ Sri Lanka series

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Eoin Morgan and Tom Curran celebrate a wicket (Getty Images)
Eoin Morgan and Tom Curran celebrate a wicket (Getty Images)

Eoin Morgan admitted there were “frustrating” elements to comfortable white-ball wins over Sri Lanka over the last fortnight, but defended the decision not to experiment a little more in Sunday’s dead rubber ODI.

Rain helped Sri Lanka – who had been bowled out for 166 – avert a double white-ball whitewash in Bristol on Sunday, but theirs was a sorry tour of England.

England used just 14 players in the ODI series, meaning the Tom Banton, Liam Dawson and the uncapped George Garton watched from the sidelines. Liam Livingstone, the coming man in T20 cricket, played just one match.

As is their preference, England bowled first in all three games (and five of the six against Sri Lanka). The rain and England’s dominance with the ball meant Sam Billings and Moeen Ali had just one innings each, while Moeen did not bowl in the final two matches. Morgan revealed they were due a promotion from No5 and 6, but the rain put paid to that.

“Even with a side that isn’t at full strength, and guys are in good form, particularly the bowling unit, with the limited opportunity you want guys to be exposed as much as possible but that didn’t necessarily happen throughout both series,” he said.

“They [Billings and Moeen] were coming up the order today with one eye on the cricket we play against Pakistan this summer. Opportunity doesn’t come around very often, so it is frustrating when it does happen but there is nothing we can do about it.”

Morgan said he did not consider batting first – which a crowd of 7,500 would no doubt have enjoyed – because England’s primary priority was winning the match, and securing the 10 points on offer for the ICC ODI Super League, which decides World Cup qualifying.

“No, there wasn’t,” he said. “We wanted to win the series. A series is on the line. There’s 10 points for each game you play.

“Probably when there’s more on the line in 50 overs at the moment, but with one eye on the T20s and ear-marking the World Cup you can be a little bit more flexible.”

Morgan also explained why the likes of Garton and Banton – who has played 15 white-ball matches for England – did not play.

“We always ask the questions of ourselves,” he said. “But the reasons behind it were, when we look at players, when Tom has been in the side before, we’ve ear-marked a number of games throughout the series he would play, whether that’s two, three, four, or five.

“We did that in NZ, we did it last year. It’s very rare that we will put somebody in for a one-off game. The reason behind that is it doesn’t hold a lot of context, unless it’s dealing with a string of games.

“When you identify a player or a talent to come into a squad, I believe you should always invest in that talent and think long term. Therefore identify down the line after he’s been around the side for a little period of time and becomes comfortable, to give him a number of opportunities and not just one.

“For years I’ve watched guys come in and out of sides and been given one off games, and whether it’s opportunity or form has not given them many after that, it’s not a way that you want to treat a good asset, or an asset for the future.”

Morgan believed the result of the series was a “big positive”, because of the “threat” Sri Lanka – who beat them at the World Cup two years ago – hold.

He said England will not rush Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler back from their injuries in the series against Pakistan on Thursday. Stokes is playing in the County Championship for Durham for the first time since 2018.

“The last thing we want to do is rush somebody back and jump with the level of intensity from county cricket to international when there isn’t necessarily a need,” he said. “We are happy for Ben to progress as he sees fit, and obviously have one eye on the Test series as well.”

Of Buttler, Morgan said: “In a similar instance to Ben, the priority wouldn’t be to get him back as soon as possible if there’s a 50-50 chance.”

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