CAP­TAIN FAN­TAS­TIC

Mor­gan hails Eng­land sup­port­ers and says it would be ‘awe­some’ and ‘iconic’ to lift the World Cup

Sunday Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - Sports - BY JIM HOLDEN

Lord’s isn’t high­scor­ing, so this match will be a

bit of a bat­tle

ENG­LAND’S skip­per Eoin Mor­gan said it would be sim­ply “awe­some” to lift the World Cup – and thanked the fans for their bril­liant sup­port.

Mor­gan and his sen­sa­tional side face New Zealand in the fi­nal at Lord’s as over­whelm­ing favourites to lift the tro­phy for the first time.

“If we man­age to win, it would be awe­some for cricket,” said the skip­per. “It would be great for the game and I think quite iconic, cer­tainly in the mem­ory of young kids if they are watch­ing at home.”

It is 27 years since Eng­land last reached the fi­nal and they have never won cricket’s one-day tour­na­ment.

“The sup­port we’ve had has been un­ques­tion­able,” added Mor­gan.

“And, as a team, that makes you feel ex­tremely lucky. We’re very ex­cited about the game.”

The home of cricket will be the per­fect venue and, as he looked ahead to the match, Mor­gan dis­played the qual­i­ties that have made him such an ad­mirable and re­spected skip­per.

Mor­gan has al­ways been his own man, in­sis­tent on Eng­land play­ing one-day, 50-over cricket his way.

And for­mer New Zealand cap­tain Bren­don McCul­lum has been a big in­spi­ra­tion for Mor­gan.

“We are close mates and he’s taught me a lot about lead­er­ship,” said Mor­gan, who de­mands an ag­gres­sive, at­tack­ing style of cricket.

“The way that New Zealand played un­der him is very sim­i­lar to the way we are play­ing at the mo­ment.

“They proved to ev­ery­one that you can get to the top by be­ing your­selves and not try­ing to be some­body else, or a dif­fer­ent team, be­ing a bit of a nov­elty for ev­ery­body else.”

What that en­tails for Mor­gan is an ab­sence of both hype and prom­ises of glory.

In the prac­tice nets yes­ter­day, he was a pic­ture of joy, laugh­ing and jok­ing with Joe Root and Mark Wood. They were boys at play – re­laxed and ready for to­day’s mon­u­men­tal oc­ca­sion.

In front of a mi­cro­phone, the poker face came out as he de­clined an in­vi­ta­tion to con­sider how the ul­ti­mate vic­tory would feel.

“I haven’t al­lowed my­self to think about lift­ing the tro­phy,” he said.

“Sport – and cricket in par­tic­u­lar – is very fickle. If you get ahead of your­self, it bites you on the back­side.

“But I can say the match means a huge amount to me and ev­ery­one in the chang­ing room. It’s the cul­mi­na­tion of four years of hard work.” Eng­land were hope­less at the last World Cup in 2015, an anx­i­etyracked out­fit. The fail­ure they feared so much was bru­tal in na­ture.

Mor­gan, along with ret­i­cent Aus­tralian head coach Trevor Bayliss, washed away the neg­a­tive vibes, trans­form­ing the duf­fers into the world’s No.1-ranked team.

The fi­nal step to glory awaits to­day – on the grand­est stage of all.

What kind of game will it be? Can Eng­land play their usual all-guns­blaz­ing power game?

The skip­per of­fered some words of cau­tion to the hordes of ex­pec­tant fans.

“Lord’s isn’t ever a high-scor­ing ground, so I’d say this match will be a bit of a bat­tle,” he ex­plained.

“Through­out the tour­na­ment, the scores have been a lot lower than pre­vi­ously here in the last three or four years and ad­just­ing to that has been harder work than it nor­mally is.

“New Zealand have been bril­liant at ad­just­ing and this is go­ing to be a tough game. What will I say to the play­ers? You never know un­til the morn­ing of the game. You have to see what the mood of the camp is. If it’s down, you need to pick it up. If it’s too high, you bring it down.

“The ma­jor­ity of times over the last few matches it’s been right on point.”

Eng­land have played out­stand­ing cricket to reach the fi­nal. They are a team with no weak link.

Ev­ery player has con­trib­uted – from thrilling new fast bowler Jofra Archer to leg-spin­ner Adil Rashid and opener Ja­son Roy.

But they would not be the same with­out Mor­gan’s lead­er­ship.

Roy of­fered this trib­ute about the cap­tain yes­ter­day, say­ing: “Oh, mate, he’s un­be­liev­able. As you’ve seen on the pitch, he’s a very cool cus­tomer, very me­thod­i­cal and very good with his emo­tions.

“It doesn’t mat­ter what some­one’s done to him – he’s able to look for­ward and look past that for the best in ev­ery­one. He’s just a good guy.”

THEY SEAM HAPPY Spin­ner Adil Rashid has a laugh with pace­man Jofra Archer

FI­NAL PLANS Bayliss and Mor­gan chat­ting yes­ter­day

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