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Eoin Morgan is England’s top cat: McCallan

So far in the build-up to the highly anticipated Ashes series, Australian players and pundits have talked much about the form, or lack of it, of Kevin Pietersen.

It's a sure sign that they are worried about him, and are doing all they can to get inside his head before the first Test later this month.

It's not like the Aussies to miss a trick.

But according to Ulster and Irish cricketing great Kyle McCallan, Ricky Ponting and co should be concerning themselves with the talents of another imaginative stroke player, Eoin Morgan.

Yes, that is Ireland's Eoin Morgan.

The Irishman playing for England hoping to knock the Aussies for six after six after six.

This is not a joke, simply the rules of modern day sport.

Try to forget the nationalities though (after all, KP is South African) and focus on what promises to be weeks gripping drama.

Come the end of it, McCallan believes England will have retained the Ashes, with his old team-mate having played a starring role.

For a couple of years Morgan and McCallan played together for Ireland, the former starting out on an exciting career, the latter coming to the end of an outstanding one, before retiring in 2009.

The 35-year-old Grosvenor Grammar schoolteacher, awarded the MBE for his services to the sport, would never say it, but it's hard to think of a better Irish player. He won a record 226 caps, scoring 3616 runs and taking 256 wickets, with more catches than Peter Shilton.

Dubliner Morgan may no longer play for the country of his birth, but if he continues to perform as he has done in the last year for England, McCallan (pictured) is going to be knocked off that perch.

Kyle minus the ego of say a Geoffrey Boycott or Pietersen, will be only too happy to see Middlesex batsman ‘Moggie' flourish, as it will benefit Irish cricket as well as the England game.

When Morgan, 24, broke into the full England set-up, he did so as an enterprising one day player, using his hurling expertise to execute wristy inventive shots. They weren't exactly out of the textbook but they got him noticed.

He soon became an automatic selection, creating history by becoming the first man to score one day centuries for two different nations.

He played a key role in England's World Twenty20 tournament win and so taken were the selectors, he was called into the Test squad in the summer.

That baffled many, who only saw him as a dangerous limited overs batsman, but not Morgan, who has always had great confidence in his ability. Impressive cameo roles against Bangladesh were followed by a sparkling century in the controversial series with Pakistan.

Next thing you knew Morgan was on the plane to Oz.

“Eoin is highly regarded in the England set-up,” says McCallan.

“He is a measured, calm individual who takes everything in his stride. He doesn't get flustered at all, which will be vital in Australia.”

Kyle believes for the England selectors it will be a straight choice between Morgan and Ian Bell for the crucial middle order slot.

There's no disguising who the Waringstown all-rounder feels should get the nod, suggesting that Morgan will handle everything that is thrown at him, including sledging from the Aussie players and fans.

He says: “There is no better man to cope with the atmosphere and all the hype that goes with an Ashes series than Eoin.

“I'm sure there will be plenty of sledging going on but whatever is being said out in the middle he will cope with it because he is such a strong minded guy.

“I genuinely believe that he can prove a really useful contributor to England. He should not be underestimated and could become one of the stars of the series.

“I feel England are good enough to win. I know that a series in Australia is a different ball game to one in England because the Aussies rarely lose at home, but I'm going for England to do it — 2-1 with Eoin playing his part.”

There remains some scepticism about Morgan's Test qualities, however, especially when facing what will be a fired-up Australia attack.

“Eoin is one of the best one day cricketers in the world, though I would admit in Test cricket there are still question marks against him. You can bet though that he will be working hard to put that right,” adds McCallan.

“He's known for his improvisation and ability to score quick runs but he is adapting to Tests really well and that brilliant hundred at Trent Bridge earlier this year showed he can deliver in the five day game.

“The thing about Eoin is he won't be content with anything he has achieved so far. He'll want more and more.”

The same could be said of Irish cricket, which Morgan will be promoting every time he walks out to bat Down Under.

“It is great that Moggie is with England because it makes everyone here realise what is possible,” says Kyle. “In the past maybe we did not realise the potential that we have, but people like Ed Joyce previously and now Eoin are showing the way.

“A huge amount of credit has to go to Cricket Ireland for producing this type of quality.

“It sends out a message to the ICC that we can produce Test cricketers for England, so there's no reason why we shouldn't be granted Test status that will allow us to develop the game even further here.”

Belfast Telegraph