Morgan looking for statement of intent by England at World Cup

England captain Eoin Morgan.
England captain Eoin Morgan.
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Eoin Morgan will lead England into their World Cup encounter with Sri Lanka with a clear message to his players that they can not afford any more slip-ups.

England have largely blundered their way through the first half of the group stage and, such is the format of the tournament, defeat in Wellington would not be a terminal blow.

But Morgan realises that if England are to have any chance of embarking on a worthwhile run at the March 29 final then time is running out to prove his side are not just making up the numbers.

A result over Sri Lanka, who have started to hit some form, would offer some much-needed comfort for England fans who have so far seen their side heavily beaten by both of the co-hosts before doing enough to beat a Scotland side apparently destined to end their third World Cup still without a victory.

With only Bangladesh and 
Afghanistan to follow in the group stage, tomorrow’s game is England’s last chance to prove they can match it with the heavy hitters before any potential quarter-final.

“It is quite a big game for us in particular,” Morgan said.

“We see these last three group games as must-win games.

“We’re going to have to be good. Our performance is going to have to be better than we’ve produced at this World Cup so far.”

The Wellington Regional Stadium might not loom as the perfect venue for England to return to after suffering one of their worst World Cup defeats there just a week ago.

Morgan’s men were pulverised by the Black Caps, which led to critics of coach Peter Moores to find some voice over the past week.

Former England captains Paul Collingwood and Michael Vaughan have both suggested Moores’s position is under threat, less than a year since he took over the role for a second time.

The 52-year-old was tasked with overhauling England in the wake of last winter’s horror Ashes tour – when the Test and limited-over coaching duties were spread – but his only significant series win since has been over India in last summer’s Tests.

England have won nine of their 25 one-day internationals under Moores, but Morgan believes the good work the coach is doing is yet to bare full fruit.

“Mooresy has been awesome since he’s come in,” Morgan said.

“He’s been completely different to anybody I’ve ever worked with before. He’s different to Andy Flower and Ashley Giles.

“He brings a lot of energy to the side, he brings a lot of ideas. The basis around international cricket is trying to be one step ahead of the game, particularly as a coach.

“You’re trying to find little edges here and there without taking the basics away. I think he’s done that since he’s been involved.”

If Moores is hoping to earn some respite at the site of one of his worst defeats, Morgan believes the players have been steeled by the shock of that eight-wicket reverse.

“I think we’re better for it,” he said.

“If we were to go back to the MCG it wouldn’t be any different. We played against a very good side and learned what we did on that day. We are able to come back here again and almost get a second chance.

“You can sit back and say it has cost us a win, but in the long run we’re still in the World Cup. We can come back and rectify anything we got wrong.”

One area in which England were gravely exposed that day was against the moving ball as Tim Southee claimed the third-best figures at a World Cup.

Morgan hinted he might, therefore, opt not to bat first if he wins the toss tomorrow, although he would certainly welcome any movement in the air against a Sri Lanka side not accustomed to such conditions.

“One lesson we have learned from there is that the ball swung throughout the first innings and preparing for the possibility of that happening again,” he said.

“We’re playing in neutral conditions and if the ball swings around we’re more than happy for it to swing around.”

England must decide whether to make any changes after sticking with the same XI for their opening three group games.

Gary Ballance has not found form since he was slotted in at three for the start of the tournament, after recovering from a broken finger, while last week batting coach Mark Ramprakash spoke glowingly of the so-far unused Alex Hales’s improvement since arriving Down Under.

Morgan suggested Yorkshire’s Ballance was likely to remain at three, however, saying: “I think any criticism that has gone his (Ballance’s) way so far is unfair. I think he’s a fantastic cricketer and a guy with a huge amount of potential.

“He’s played against two of the tougher sides in the World Cup and he dragged one on against Scotland. In my eyes he’s been a bit unlucky.”

Scotland’s players have been fined for a slow over rate in their tense World Cup defeat to fellow associate nation Afghanistan on Thursday.

The International Cricket Council deemed the Scots were “one over short of its target” in Dunedin as Afghanistan chased down a victory target of 211 with one wicket and three balls to spare for their first win in the global competition.

The Scots were fined 10 per cent of their match fees.