26th May: Chennai S. Kings v Mumbai I, 14:30 GMT
24th-28th May: 2nd Test, Headingley
All six of the contenders for this week’s Cricket World Player of the Week award are batsmen and that is not really a surprise when one considers the calibre of those that have been on show over the past seven days.
Mohammad Hafeez and Azhar Ali have both made the most of a flat pitch at the Sinhalese Sports Club to hit centuries, but it is from the limited-overs matches that this week’s most mind-blowing performances have come. Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard were at their destructive best during the Twenty20 International mini-series in Florida as they gave the largely expatriate West Indian community there a taste of their awesome power. Gayle was the more measured of the two, hitting 85 not out off 52 balls in the first match on Saturday, before following that up with a 39-ball 53 on Sunday, while Pollard smashed 63 from only 29 balls in the first of the two matches.
However, it is from the other limited-overs series that this week’s winner comes. Ravi Bopara played a mature innings in the second One-Day International at The Oval, but it is Eoin Morgan who is this week’s deserving winner. The 25 year-old regained the form that appeared, at times, to have deserted him over the winter, by hitting 89 not out off just 63 balls in England’s opening ODI against Australia at Lord’s, and followed that up with an unbeaten 43 in the second match.
Morgan began last winter as England’s Test number six, but by the end had been dropped from that format and looked a shadow of his former self even in limited-overs cricket. He appeared to have developed a pronounced ducking movement at the crease just as the bowler was delivering the ball, something which many experts blamed for his poor form.
Thankfully, for him and England, he appears to have removed this flaw from his game, and, despite not playing a single match the Indian Premier League, spoke positively of that particular experience. Of his technical improvements, he spoke of the fortnight off following his axing from the Test side as the time when he made most of the changes, saying, “When I came back from Dubai, I had two weeks off and came back and reflected on what I'd done poorly in the UAE and made some technical changes. One of them was the balance of my head, and the other was my hand movement. The stuff I did was very basic. It's just a matter of monitoring it."
Those that follow county cricket will have been unsurprised at the impact he has had on the series against Australia so far, as, only three weeks earlier, he had blasted 116 off only 72 balls in a Clydesdale Bank 40 match against Lancashire.
When in full flow, Morgan is one of the most enterprising and entertaining batsmen in international cricket and appears able to get a tremendous amount of speed on the ball despite his relatively small stature. His return to form has come just at the right time for England – following the retirement of Kevin Pietersen – and he will be a crucial player in the defence of their Twenty20 title in Sri Lanka later this year.
© Cricket World 2012
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