Joe Root is certain that captain Eoin Morgan will lead from the front 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 yesterday.
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 last 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 Yorkshire star 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,” Sheffield-born 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.”
Asked if there was any reason to be concerned by Morgan’s form, he added: “Not really. He scored a hundred not long ago.
“He’s obviously a fine player, he’s a fine leader.
“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.”
Root admits that, after all the preparation of the past month, the England players are chomping at the bit to kick off the World Cup against their oldest rivals.
“We’re ready now. We’re fed up of waiting around,” he said.
“We want to get cracking. We want Saturday to come and we want to surprise people. We want to put in that performance that gets us a win and take on that 90,000 at the MCG.”
England may have some headaches to cure before then – not 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 his Headingley team-mate 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 250-8.
It was a timely reminder of the Yorkshireman’s qualities after the out-of-sorts Ravi Bopara scratched away for 11 from 25 balls before misreading a Shah wrong-un.
Root, a former housemate of Ballance, is certain he could step up if required in Melbourne.
“Absolutely. He wouldn’t be in the squad if he wasn’t able to do a job,” he said.
“I think it is great that he has come back from an injury, it’s never easy to come back into cricket and perform from ball one.
“To put that performance in today is really pleasing and it’s good to have a full squad playing well.”
Root believes he too is ready to go on Saturday, adding: “I actually feel really good. I know I’ve not really put many performances in, a couple of fifties, but my game feels in a really good place at the minute.
“It’s quite exciting that is just around the corner now until Saturday. I’m really looking forward to that.”
England could also feel enthused by Stuart Broad’s 2-51, 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 78-4 in their replay.
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.
Pakistan coach Waqar Younis said it was the perfect situation for his captain, saying: “He reads the game really well.
“He reads the scoreboard well and as a captain he takes the responsibility also. Batting at five or six he just suits him so well.”
World Cup special: Pages 20-21.