England has found a ‘new level of intensity’, says Eoin Morgan

The unrelenting side now has a 4-0 series lead against Australia, and the England captain hopes to sustain the momentum in Sunday’s finale.

Dynamic duo: When they get going, Jason Roy (right) and Jonny Bairstow (left) “create an unbelievable tone at the top of the order,” according to Eoin Morgan.   -  AFP

England captain Eoin Morgan hopes his side can maintain its “new level of intensity” after moving to within sight of a first 5-0 One-Day International (ODI) series whitewash of Australia. Morgan’s men, the No. 1-ranked side in this format, beat Australia by six wickets at Chester-le-Street on Thursday.

Set an ODI ground record of 311 to win, England finished on 314 for four with more than five overs to spare after Jason Roy (101) hit his second hundred of the series.

Following their century partnership during England’s 481 for six — the highest total in men’s ODI cricket — at Nottingham on Tuesday, Roy and Jonny Bairstow (79) again overwhelmed a novice Australia attack while putting on 174 for the first wicket. There was a brief wobble when both openers fell in quick succession, but Jos Buttler’s unbeaten 54 put the result beyond doubt.

This latest victory left England 4-0 up in the five-match series against world champion Australia heading into Sunday’s finale at Old Trafford. It was further confirmation of England’s dramatically altered approach to one-day cricket after a humiliating first-round exit at the 2015 World Cup.

England, the 2019 host, is now among the favourites although, following last year’s Champions Trophy semifinal loss to Pakistan in Cardiff, doubts remain over its ability to cope with the particular pressures of winner-takes-all knockout games.

‘Unbelievable tone’

But if Roy and Bairstow can maintain anything like their current form, England will have high hopes of at last winning a maiden World Cup title, after more than 40 years of trying. “If it does become the ‘normal’, that would be awesome — because it creates an unbelievable tone at the top of the order,” said Morgan when asked about his openers.

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“I think the form the two guys are in is phenomenal. I think we’ve found a new gear, or a new level of intensity.”

If England did not take early wickets on Thursday, it at least kept Australia in relative check in a total of 310 for eight featuring hundreds from Aaron Finch (100) and Shaun Marsh (101). Test skipper Joe Root, best known as a top-order batsman, bowled 10 overs of part-time off-spin for a meagre 44 runs.

“We didn’t take wickets, which is an area we hope to improve, but we certainly controlled the run-rate,” said Morgan.

Stepping up to the plate

England did, however, strike late on, thanks to a double blow by fast bowler Mark Wood and three wickets in an over from left-arm paceman David Willey, who finished with four for 43. “We know it falls on a couple of guys to do really well, or else it can go badly — and Dave stepped up to the plate and bowled really well,” said Morgan.

Meanwhile, Finch was frustrated to have been dismissed when well set. “For me to get out just past a hundred was disappointing, when we could have really kicked on, put the foot down for that last 12 or 15 overs,” he said. “I take full responsibility for that.”

Australia, however, is currently missing six senior players — banned batsmen Steve Smith and David Warner as well as injured pacemen Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Marsh. And Finch said there was little point in the five-times men’s world champion slavishly adopting England’s approach.

“They’ve got a pretty good blueprint. [But], do we need to copy that? No. I think we’ve still got to stick to our strengths, but just find a way to stay in the contest for longer,” Finch added, after Australia’s 15th defeat in 17 completed ODIs.

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