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England are homing in on history, says Morgan

Meet and greet: The Duke of Sussex meets England cricket captain Eoin Morgan during a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London yesterday
Meet and greet: The Duke of Sussex meets England cricket captain Eoin Morgan during a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London yesterday

By Rory Dollard

England captain Eoin Morgan wants his side to embrace their chance to become heroes by lifting the World Cup on home soil.

The waiting is almost over for Morgan and company, who get the tournament under way against South Africa at the Oval today.

They go in ranked as world number one after four solid years on an upward trajectory and Morgan admits they have the chance to give their sport a once-in-a-lifetime lift over the next six weeks.

"It would mean a huge amount, the World Cup alone raises the profile of the game and is a platform for every young kid in this country to have a hero or have the inspiration to pick up a ball or a bat," he said.

"To go on and win it, I couldn't imagine what that would do."

After a series of injury scares over recent weeks, including his own dislocated finger, Morgan was happy to reveal that the entire squad go into the competition with a green light.

"I'm good and the team are very well. We've no injury concerns and we have a full bill of health," he said.

Asked if England were focused solely on getting a positive result or were just as eager to make a statement with the manner of their performance, the Dubliner was unequivocal. "A win under any circumstances," he said.

Morgan confirmed the 11 had been chosen but will not announce it until the toss. Ten places seem all-but certain, with Liam Plunkett, Mark Wood and Tom Curran seemingly vying for the last shirt.

It was Plunkett who took his place in the main seam group at nets, possibly hinting that he had been given the nod on this occasion.

The power-brokers at the England and Wales Cricket Board are just as desperate as Morgan to seize their moment in the spotlight.

With the Ashes series following hot on the heels of this 10-team showpiece, the chance to attract new fans and increase the sport's foothold has never been more apparent.

Last summer it was football that had the country's rapt attention as the Three Lions reached the final four in Russia, regaining some lost love for the national side in the process.

The architect of that campaign, Gareth Southgate, visited England's training camp in Cardiff last month and made a big impression on those present.

"We did the session with Gareth, who was brilliant, every one of our players enjoyed it," said Morgan.

"He got up and talked about his journey with the team in and around the World Cup, but in the build-up as well - how they built bigger expectations and became more together as a group.

"Everyone in the room recognised they are where we were two years ago. We started where they did: recognise what happened in the past, draw a line under it."

Morgan could not resist one waspish observation, though, nodding to his team's failure to land a trophy two years ago compared to the footballers' efforts.

"It's amazing, they got to the semi-finals and everyone said it was great. We got to the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy and we were crap."

The Middlesex batsman is known as an ice-cool leader, not prone to displays of naked emotion, but even he acknowledged the honour of leading out the host nation was a seismic one.

"I dreamed about scoring a Test match hundred, and hitting the winning runs in a World Cup final, potentially," he said. "But I never dreamt, even in my wildest dreams, that I would captain a home World Cup.

"The first game of a World Cup or the Ashes always feels different. That's natural."

Meanwhile, Brett Lee says Steve Smith and David Warner have nothing to prove on their return to the Australia fold.

Both men are part of Australia's World Cup squad having served their one-year suspension for ball-tampering.

Lee said: "I don't think they have a point to prove. I reckon they have a shot at winning.

"They are going to cop some sledging, but you need thick skin."

Belfast Telegraph


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