JOE Root is certain that captain Eoin Morgan will overcome his slump in form when England begin their World Cup campaign against Australia on Saturday.
Morgan will head into that blockbuster clash struggling to score a run after he again made a duck in a four-wicket warm-up defeat to Pakistan in Sydney.
The left-hander fell in bizarre fashion too, scooping a Yasir Shah full toss to slip, and now has a miserable return of 0, 2, 0, 0 from his past four innings – including consecutive first-ball ducks against Australia.
His century against Australia in the tri-series opener will, however, ensure Morgan is not too panicked just yet and Root is confident that in the heat of battle – starting in front of a 90,000-strong MCG sell-out on Valentine’s Day – that his captain will raise his game.
“Morgs is one of the guys that under the pump, when the pressure is on, he’s someone you turn to,” Root said. “He’s done it so many times for us and I’m sure throughout this competition he’s going to score a lot of runs. Everyone in the dressing room is absolutely convinced that’s going to be the case.
“There’s no bigger stage than Saturday. I’m sure he is, as much as anyone in the squad, really looking forward to getting out there and putting on a show.”
England may have some headaches to cure before then – not the least Morgan’s form – but would have been content to be fully tested after they hardly broke a sweat in beating West Indies by nine wickets in their first warm-up game on Monday.
Root top-scored with 85 from 89 balls, while Gary Ballance, in his first game on tour after breaking a finger in a training session at Canberra, ground out an 81-ball 57 in a total of 250 for eight.
England could also feel enthused by Stuart Broad’s two for 51, after he took the new ball for the first time this winter and claimed Nasri Jamshed immediately. Broad has slowly built back to full steam since arriving in Australia following his surgery earlier in the winter and helped reduce Pakistan to 78 for four in their reply.
From there Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Akmal stole the game away in a match-winning stand of 133. The unflappable Misbah typically timed the chase perfectly, getting his side home with seven balls to spare and unbeaten on 91.
World Cup co-hosts New Zealand continued their impressive recent form by beating South Africa by 134 runs in Christchurch. Brendon McCullum made 59 and Kane Williamson 66 as New Zealand scored 331 for eight in 50 overs before bowling out South Africa for 197.
Sri Lanka’s confidence took a big hit as they slumped to a seven-wicket defeat to Zimbabwe in Lincoln, New Zealand. Zimbabwe surpassed the Sri Lanka total of 279 for eight as they made 281 for three in only 45.2 overs, led by Hamilton Masakadza’s unbeaten 117 from 119 balls. Michael Clarke returned from hamstring surgery to captain Australia and top-score against the UAE with 64 runs as the co-hosts, winning the toss, won by 188 runs. Australia made 304 for eight before restricting the UAE to 116 in 30.1 overs.
Clarke, who opened the batting, was not expected to take part in Australia’s opener against England at the MCG, but yesterday’s performance might change that. “We’ll sum it up tomorrow, see how he pulls up,” coach Darren Lehmann said. “The fielding is going to be the big thing. He’s been batting really well for the last couple of weeks, so no dramas there.”