‘Laughable to point the finger at the Hundred’ for England’s Ashes drubbing


Says disruptions during England’s preparation before the series was a big reason for the poor performance, insists Test cricket remains the priority for the team

Eoin Morgan, England’s limited-overs captain, has said that it is “laughable to point the finger at the Hundred” for England’s 4-0 Ashes drubbing in Australia, and insisted that Test match cricket has always been the priority for the team.

“People that use that as an excuse don’t want cricket,” Morgan told talkSPORT’s Following On podcast. “Test match cricket has always been the priority: it’s the format for our elite players. Obviously times at the moment have been tough down in Australia during the Ashes [but] they always are: we’ve lost the last two series 5-0 [sic] and it’s no surprise that Australia are very, very good at home.

“Given the prep the guys have had where since they’ve arrived in Australia, until the first Test match, it has hammered it down with rain… it’s laughable to point the finger at the Hundred. The Hundred is an unbelievable success. Our formats in county cricket and the Hundred, in the way they’re structured, it’s exactly the same as Australia’s.

“People need something to blame so they’ll point at probably the furthest point to reality, because nobody wants to say: ‘you know what, we haven’t had the prep we would have liked, we probably haven’t played as we’d have liked, and we’ve lost’. That happens in all formats, but I stress: Test match cricket has always been the priority.”

England’s convincing series defeat in Australia has prompted both Joe Root, the Test captain, and Tom Harrison, the ECB’s chief executive, to call for a “red-ball reset” and a shift in priorities within English cricket, with the implication that the balance has tilted too far in favour of the white-ball game since 2015. Some pundits have suggested that the Hundred – and its four-week window at the height of summer – has contributed to the malaise, pushing the County Championship to the start and end of the English season.
Morgan arrived in Barbados on Saturday along with England’s T20I squad, which features only one player – Sam Billings, who is yet to arrive after a gruelling journey from Hobart – who was involved in the Ashes. They are scheduled to play five matches against West Indies, starting Saturday.

“[I have] a drive to want to leave the team in a far better place with the ambition of them continuing to get better down the line. I’ve really enjoyed playing with this group. I’ve loved captaining and, at this particular time in my career, I couldn’t be having a better time”

Eoin Morgan

In the aftermath of the Ashes defeat, it has been claimed that Morgan has been given full-strength squads throughout the last two years in preparation for T20 World Cups, but Morgan reiterated that players missing white-ball series has been “a constant theme for a number of years”.

England have only played two bilateral T20I series since the start of the pandemic in which all of their available first-choice players were selected – against South Africa and India during the 2020-21 winter – while first-choice players were rested during the Test series against Sri Lanka, India and New Zealand in the first six months of 2021.

“As a white-ball group, we’ve gone on tours and played in series at home where we haven’t had our full-strength side available – that’s been a constant theme for a number of years now,” Morgan said. “Obviously Test matches take priority and always do. Going through the exercise of giving younger guys opportunities is a really exciting time for us.

“[Players] coming through county cricket, into the Hundred, playing in franchise tournaments around the world, are now going into our team ready to play international cricket. I’m excited about seeing some of the new players coming into the squad potentially get opportunities over the course of the five games, and hopefully winning a series.

“For the majority of my career, white-ball cricket was an afterthought – 95% of the time was spent around planning and prep for Test match cricket and then when we got to a World Cup, it was like, ‘well, if we do well, great, but if we don’t, it’s fine’.

“With the skill level that guys are producing now on a consistent basis, proven over a long period of time, we’re considered one of the best in the world. Trust me, I’d much rather be considered that than an afterthought.”

Morgan himself struggled with the bat in 2021, averaging 17.71 with a strike rate of 118.61 across 39 innings in all T20 cricket, but has insisted he still had the desire to captain England’s limited-overs sides moving forward, and reiterated that stance.

“I’ve had three weeks off now,” he said. “After this trip, there’ll be a couple of months which I’ll be taking off as well to recharge even more to get the run-in to what’s going to be an unbelievably busy six months ahead, with the World Cup right at the back-end. We have a hectic summer and at the back-end of that we go to Pakistan for T20s as well, and then on to Australia, so there’s a lot of cricket.

“[I have] a drive to want to leave the team in a far better place with the ambition of them continuing to get better down the line. I’ve really enjoyed playing with this group. I’ve loved captaining and, at this particular time in my career, I couldn’t be having a better time.

“Turning up to a World Cup as either favourites or joint-favourites or real strong contenders is something that excites me. It’s something that I always think about because it makes me think about what we can change to get better, or how we can become more consistent as a side. Until that stops, I think things are good.”

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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