Belfast Telegraph

Morgan poised to replace Cook

By David Clough

Alastair Cook will not captain England at next year's World Cup and is in line to be replaced by former Ireland international Eoin Morgan.

A powerful combination of wretched results, even worse individual form and Cook's vociferous and influential chorus of critics appear to have made it increasingly difficult for England's selectors to stick to their guns.

A meeting yesterday, in which they were expected to pick an initial squad of 16 for next month's tri-series in Australia, to be trimmed by one for the main event, suggests Cook has paid for his poor run of form. The 29-year-old has made just one one-day international 50 in his last 22 innings.

Less than a week ago, England and Wales Cricket Board managing director Paul Downton was still saying he would be "very surprised" if, despite his "miserable" form, Cook was not confirmed as captain on Saturday morning.

Another failure, and defeat, followed to make the margin of England's series setback in Sri Lanka 5-2.

The selectors deliberated at length in September before naming him as captain in Sri Lanka and, in James Whitaker's words, a "unique leader" who would unquestionably stay in charge for the World Cup too.

However, Cook conceded after his latest defeat that he could have "no complaints" if he was moved on.

As for a replacement, Morgan's case is championed by the loudest voices moulding public opinion and raising the pressure on national selector Whitaker and his colleagues Peter Moores, Angus Fraser and Mick Newell.

There is an unmissable snag, however, in that the Irishman's batting form - since a purple patch in Australia last winter - is not discernibly better than Cook's.

If there are other alternatives, they are not obvious.

Of those guaranteed a World Cup place, if fit, 23-year-old Joe Root is a developing and in-form linchpin at number four and, surely, could do without the extra encumbrance.

Stuart Broad led England, in Cook's absence, to their last ODI series victory but is recovering from a knee injury, so it would be a major gamble to appoint him captain.

Ian Bell could become the square peg England can no longer accommodate as a utility top-four incumbent and in his place Gary Ballance, surprisingly omitted for Sri Lanka, may be the new marque.

Kevin Pietersen yesterday insisted he would listen to any offer to return, but his international career looks over.

Pietersen wrote on Twitter that his "phone is on" but it seems certain he will not be in England's 16-man squad.

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