Eoin Morgan still recalls his week of worries after suffering concussion when he was hit on the helmet by a Mitchell Starc bouncer.
But he will stride out with confidence, in his first competitive innings since that day at Old Trafford in September, when he leads England in the one-day international series against Pakistan.
Morgan switched mid-series against Australia to the Masuri helmet, with its additional neck-guard developed after Phillip Hughes suffered a fatal blow from a bouncer last year, and he has since updated to a bespoke model individually moulded for him. There have been many net sessions too to fine-tune his methods against the short ball, but even so Morgan admits it will be a crucial first innings back for him today at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium.
He had a sighter in England’s warm-up fixture, on an adjoining ground, against the gentler pace of Hong Kong – in which he made 16 off 20 balls. Other than that, the 29-year-old has not been to the middle since having to retire hurt in Manchester two months ago and then spend the final week of the season recovering.
“At the time, it was quite concerning,” he said. “The ball hit me quite hard.”
He did not play in Middlesex’s final LV= County Championship match, a fixture he might well have missed in any case.
“It was about ten days before I was, I suppose, myself,” Morgan added. “Balance, grogginess, it was a really weird feeling. It’s worrying, to be honest, because the feeling of concussion is something I’ve never had before. I suppose being in that position, having never been in it before, worried me a little.”
He has steeled himself to watch again the moment he was hit and has concluded there was perhaps not much he could have done differently.
He said: “I’ve watched it back a number of times; I’ve watched loads of footage of me in the past, how I’ve normally played [the short ball].”
There was no pun intended, for sure, when he added: “I still look back at it now – and hats off, it was a pretty good delivery.
“I’ve done a lot of short-ball practice since then and I’m quite confident going into this series that I’ve progressed.”
It was after being hit on the back of the neck, in the same ODI series against Australia that Morgan decided a change of headgear would give him more reassurance. “I did change it during the series,” he said. “I got hit on the neck at Lord’s and wasn’t wearing a neck-guard, so I changed to a Masuri helmet.
“I feel more protected with the neck-guard that they have, so I went for the full helmet.”
Since then, he has upgraded further – for comfort – and added: “I’ve had scans on my head to have a mould for my own helmet, which I’m wearing now.”
Morgan was in prime form before he was hit having made four half-centuries in five innings. England could do with him returning as if never away, as they seek to hit back after their Test series defeat by Pakistan.
He believes he has done all the necessary work to ensure his confidence is undiminished.
“I suppose you start building it up again in the nets,” Morgan said.
“I did that about three weeks ago, quite a lot of work in indoor schools on quicker surfaces – which hopefully prepares you for that event again, to judge it in a better way. It’s crucial [to get back in the middle]. (But) I’m feeling all right... I know guys who in the past have had prolonged concussions, so I feel very lucky to be back.”
Jos Buttler is set to be fit to keep wicket, having recovered from a sore finger, in a team which may well be unchanged from the XI named to bat in England’s warm-up win over Hong Kong on Sunday.