The Daily Telegraph
Moeen: We must move on from Morgan era
Historic return to Pakistan starts with day-night T20 Stand-in captain promises ‘real change’ in team’s style
Moving on is hard when success is the norm, but a first tour to Pakistan for 17 years naturally lends itself to a new beginning for England.
The freshness of this Twenty20 squad, with five uncapped players and the dropping of Jason Roy, a stalwart for the past five years, has set in motion the transition from the Eoin Morgan era.
With Liam Livingstone and Ben Stokes injured or rested, and Jos Buttler, Mark Wood and Chris Woakes unavailable until the latter stages of this mammoth seven-match series, there is a good opportunity to give new players a run, and learn a lot about them, in the intense atmosphere of a full National Stadium in Karachi today.
It will be an emotional occasion for Moeen Ali, who has spoken of his pride at captaining England in Pakistan, where he traces his family heritage to Kashmir. His uncle recently relocated to Karachi reinforcing the family’s links, and for English cricket it is a significant sign that the team will be led by a British Muslim with connections to the country. “Having family who migrated from here, it is amazing to lead the England side. It’s awesome,” said Moeen, who is standing in for Buttler.
“I know my dad’s excited and proud. There are a lot of people in England who know people over here who need tickets. I’ve had so many messages. Yeah, tickets are a bit of a killer for me.”
Morgan cast a long shadow this summer. His retirement surprised players and wrong-footed coach Matthew Mott as he tried to find his feet in the job. Morgan’s instant recruitment by Sky meant that he was a constant presence, at one stage conducting the pre-match toss interviews. You half-expected him to say, “we’ll have a bat today”.
Morgan has to move on in life and build a new career, but England needed some space, too, as they struggled, failing to win a white-ball series at home.
“Naturally, you keep talking about how you played under Morgs,” Moeen said. “‘We used to do this, we used to do that or the reason why we were so good was because of this’. The summer was quite poor for us. We didn’t play very well at all. I think now is going to be the starting point. You are going to see a real change in the way the side plays and goes about things. It is Jos’s side now and we have to do everything for Jos as players.”
Moeen pointed out this was not a “reset”. The Test team needed one of those after the Ashes because they were playing so poorly. For the white-ball team, it is about regeneration. But in some ways resets are easier because expectations are low. For this team, they face the contrasting challenge of having to evolve while still winning, otherwise very quickly coach and captain come under pressure because everyone is used to success.
The selection meeting for the tour took four hours and there are 20 players; 12 of them are also in the World Cup squad. There are nine seamers, and seven matches offers everyone a chance. Phil Salt will fill the Buttler role, keeping and opening. His partner will be Alex Hales, but Will Jacks is only 23 and one of the “generational” players that Mott is hoping to emerge on this tour as he plans for other T20 World Cups in 2024 and 2026.
Salt and Hales are in a direct battle to open with Buttler at the World Cup – who wins that will be the most interesting thread running through the trip. The obsession with left-arm pace bowlers continues, with four in the squad, although Reece Topley, the most potent of them all, is not fit for the first game.
England believe they know 10 of their first XI for the World Cup, so this tour is about the future. The mainstays of the Morgan era are in the final straight, so for Salt, Jacks, Harry Brook, Ben Duckett, Luke Wood and Tom Helm, this is a good opportunity.
Pace will be England’s biggest challenge, even though Shaheen Shah Afridi, the magnificent left-arm quick, is injured. Haris Rauf and Naseem Shah bowl at above 90mph, as does Mohammad Hasnain, whose action still causes suspicion and could be contentious for England if he does well. It is the kind of issue that could regenerate sores that stretch back years, but the fluidity of franchise leagues means many of this generation know each other well, so mistrust born out of unfamiliarity should be less of an issue.
Pakistan have changed their longestablished opening partnership – Derbyshire’s Shan Masood replacing the rested Mohammad Rizwan to partner captain Babar Azam. The pitch in Karachi will be flat, and probably lack pace. The dew will make batting second a different prospect. Teams batting second in day-night T20s in Pakistan since 2019 have won 59 per cent of the time, more than anywhere in the world. England have never played a seven-match series before, so have time to adapt, something they failed to do in the summer.