Interview Morgan finally watches final – three times
Lockdown provided captain chance to relive Lord’s classic, and he recalls the moment he thought the match was lost
For a lot of people, lockdown was the chance to catch up on Netflix box sets, but for Eoin Morgan it was an opportunity finally to watch the biggest cricket match of his life.
A year ago today Morgan led England to victory in what Michael Vaughan declared on the front page of this newspaper as the greatestever cricket match. England’s super over victory at almost 8pm on a gloriously sunny Sunday evening at Lord’s will never be forgotten, but for Morgan it took watching the game again for many of the memories to come back.
“Obviously, the last four months has been a bit of a challenge but that’s actually allowed me to watch the World Cup final – I’ve watched it three times now,” he says. “And that’s allowed me to enjoy it for the first time. It’s still tense throughout the whole day every time I watch it and watching it back, the ebbs and flow of the game, is a privilege.”
It was a day of excruciating drama, but even at those moments when all hope seemed to have been lost for England (and there were lots), there was Morgan, sitting on the balcony with that icy stare and calm exterior.
“There’s only one for me (when he thought it was over) and it probably came to me the second time I watched it.
“Jimmy Neesham’s bowling to Ben [Stokes], he bowls a slower ball, Ben hits it down to long on and I remember the ball being in the air and you can see the trajectory of the ball and you full well know when you hit it up the hill you have to absolutely smoke it to hit it for six and it’s gone high and not quite as long as he’d liked and for a minute I just thought, ‘That’s it, it’s over,
Ben’s out, we still need 15 an over’ – that’s when I thought for a split second we were dead and buried.”
Then Trent Boult caught the ball but immediately stepped on the boundary, giving away a six and keeping England in the match.
Morgan keeps his medal “on a shelf ” but says there is not enough room in his flat for hanging up memorabilia. That day has created a deep connection between the players in the 15-man squad and backroom staff. There are plans for reunion dinners but it will have to wait until they are retired and not playing cricket around the world.
It might be too soon for Liam Plunkett, who took three wickets in the final but has not played again since, but Morgan believes there is a bond for life. “Going through the highs and the lows of that four-year period, the very similar highs and lows of that campaign, is something that all of us will have until the day we die,” says Morgan
“The final is actually bigger than cricket and projected as one of the biggest highlights of a sporting day in British history. That will be around for a very long time, so it was probably more satisfying that it will continue to be like that.
“One thing we’ve found unbelievably challenging is that we haven’t been able to get the whole group of players, that squad of 15, together since the day after the World Cup final. It’s just been a challenge with guys playing all over the place. One of the aims is to do it sooner rather than later, to have a dinner, a bit of a party. Given any excuse, I love to celebrate.”
Morgan lives in north London, leading a quiet life with his young family, but says he has been recognised on the street a lot more since the final, which was the first live match to be shown on terrestrial television since the 2005 Ashes.
It was a super Sunday of sport, with the epic Wimbledon final between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer as well as Lewis Hamilton winning the British Grand Prix.
“It was just a celebration of sport and people obviously love it when they win trophies,” says Morgan. “Cricket has certainly become a higher-profile [sport] and with that, that’s how my life has changed.”
Silver lining: The England squad mark their victory with a visit to see Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street