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Facing Ireland is still my toughest battle, says Dubliner Morgan


Old pals: England cricket captain Eoin Morgan (right) and Ireland cricket captain William Porterfield
Old pals: England cricket captain Eoin Morgan (right) and Ireland cricket captain William Porterfield

By Ian Callender

England captain Eoin Morgan has admitted it does not get any easier for him when he lines up against his home country in an international.

After making his Ireland debut as a 16-year-old in 2003 - in the same match as Boyd Rankin - he went on to play another 62 times before achieving his lifelong ambition of playing for England in 2009.

Today the Dubliner plays his sixth game against Ireland, as captain of the World's No.1 side, but admitted: "I don't feel any more comfortable. It's no easier. This is where I started playing cricket, it's only 30-40 per cent of my journey but it was an important part of my journey."

Morgan may feel uncomfortable but he is invariably successful. He averages 78.5 against Ireland with an unbeaten 124 at Malahide in 2013 his best. But with the defeat against Scotland 12 months ago still fresh in the memory bank, Morgan says there will be no complacency back at the north Dublin venue today.

"I'm expecting a tough game," he said. "Scotland was the first of only two defeats all summer last year, so we are not taking Ireland lightly. They've just gone through a tough period against Afghanistan, but they are going through a different transition to where we are at.

"It doesn't make the challenge any easier and we will have to adapt to conditions and hopefully play a good game of cricket.

"There's a huge amount of expectation on us as a team, that's part and parcel of being the number one side in the world and it's quite cool. We have created that through performance and that's something we have managed quite well. It's made us strive to be even better."

The captain confirmed that England will field three debutants, wicket-keeper Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan - Paul Stirling's opening partner in white-ball cricket at Middlesex - and Barbados-born Jofra Archer. Morgan is excited by all three.

"I've played against Jofra for a while, everybody has seen what he has done in T20 franchise cricket around the world and now it's how he deals with the pressure of international cricket, but I'm looking forward to seeing how he goes," added Morgan.

"Malan is unlucky not to have been involved earlier and I haven't seen as much of Ben as I would have liked because we are littered with keepers and have been for some time. But the feedback has been absolutely awesome and he has scored a Test hundred."

With a heavy media presence from England, Morgan's press conference was dominated by the axing from the provisional World Cup squad - and this match - of Alex Hales, the Nottinghamshire batsman who failed a second drugs test last month.

At the outset, Morgan explained how he heard about it and how it was dealt with.

"When the news broke, I found out like everyone else, so I texted Alex asking him if he needed any support and he said everything was fine, he would see me in Cardiff," he said.

"The day before the squad met up (for the camp), I was worried what effect it would have on the team culture, something we have worked on for the last 18 months, since the Bristol incident (also involving Hales and Ben Stokes).

"Those values have been in place for the last six months. Alex's actions have shown a complete disregard for those values.

"This has created a lack of trust between Alex and the team, so on Saturday the senior players got together and we decided the best decision for the team was for Alex to be de-selected."

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