England v Australia – Captain Eoin Morgan targets World Cup opener return

Eoin Morgan is hopeful of leading England in next week’s World Cup opener despite a finger injury that will keep him out of today’s warm-up against Australia.

England's Eoin Morgan during a nets session at The Hampshire Bowl. Picture: Adam Davy/PA

The captain suffered a scare when he hurt his left index finger during catching drills at the Ageas Bowl on Friday and was sent to hospital for X-rays which showed “a small flake fracture”.

That was enough to rule him out of the following day’s game but the prognosis was for a full and swift recovery that would see him fit for the tournament curtain-raiser against South Africa in six days.

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An England and Wales Cricket Board spokesman said: “He will not take part in the match (against Australia) but is expected to make a full recovery and be available for England’s opening ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup match against South Africa at The Oval on Thursday May 30.”

Morgan was taking chances from the bowling machine on the outfield when he was struck, lingering on the pitch for a couple of minutes before the discomfort persuaded him to seek assistance.

The decision was taken to send him for what was described as a “precautionary X-ray” and shortly after 2pm he returned to the team hotel, which is part of the stadium complex, in good spirits.

Almost three hours passed before the ECB made the results public and, although it was immediately clear that he would not be taking the field against Australia, the news that it was neither a bad break nor one which would immediately rule him out of the first group match was positive.

Monday’s practice against Afghanistan, also at the Oval, was not mentioned but it seems likely that England will only allow their inspirational skipper to take part if he is fully fit.

Hampshire’s James Vince will take his place in the short term, slotting into the middle order on his home ground, but in terms of experience, form, international output and leadership he is not yet in Morgan’s class.

The question of batting replacements briefly rose up the agenda as Morgan awaited his diagnosis, a field thinned by Alex Hales’ removal from the squad for failed recreational drug tests and Sam Billings’ dislocated shoulder.

Joe Denly, culled from the preliminary 15-man squad in an all-round role, would be most likely to get the call should any of the top six succumb, with Ben Duckett also worthy of discussion.