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Cricket World Cup: Kevin Pietersen v Eoin Morgan

Kevin Pietersen & Eoin Morgan
Kevin Pietersen's displays have been overshadowed by those of Eoin Morgan

By Sam Sheringham

At first glance, the loss of Kevin Pietersen would appear a devastating blow to England's World Cup hopes.

At his swashbuckling best, the Surrey batsman is a proven match-winner, capable of reducing the finest attacks in the game to gibbering wrecks.

And despite not firing on all cylinders over the last 12 months, there were signs that his elevation to the top of the order for this tournament was beginning to bring out the best in him.

But Pietersen's departure with a hernia injury has given England an excuse to recall Eoin Morgan, a player who until suffering a broken finger in February had established himself as arguably the most-important batsman in the one-day side.

With his ability to keep cool under pressure, improvise shots around the wicket and judge the pace of the run chase, Morgan has added another dimension to England.

So, could the loss of KP be a blessing in disguise?

England have a better record with Morgan in the side

Since making his England debut in May 2009, Morgan has scored 1,160 runs in 38 matches at an average of 40, with three centuries.

Over that same period, Pietersen has played 22 one-dayers for England, scored 521 runs at an average of 23.68 and has a highest-score of 78.

Perhaps more revealingly, as the above table shows, since Pietersen made his one-day debut in November 2004, England have a better win ratio without him (46.15%) than with him in the team (43.75%).

In contrast, since Morgan took his bow England have won more than half their games with him in the team (52.63%) and only three of the seven (42.86%) he has missed.

According to the players' scoring "wagon wheels" for the past two years, while Morgan tends to balance his runs between the off and leg sides, Pietersen strongly favours hitting to leg, with all nine of his sixes in the last two years coming on that side of the wicket.

Eoin Morgan wagon wheel

Before a disappointing series in the 6-1 reverse in Australia, Morgan had established himself as England's answer to Michael Bevan - the Australian one-day specialist who turned finishing a run chase into an art form.

His first two England hundreds - against Bangladesh and Australia - steered England to testing victory targets, while the most recent was an explosive unbeaten 107 off 101 balls against Pakistan in Southampton.

"He's been a breath of fresh air for the 50-over game," former England captain Mike Gatting told BBC Sport. "He plays in a way that pleases everybody and he is getting runs.

"It's nice for England to have a guy who has been there, done that and has been very successful. If you look at his record, it suggests he can be very successful in this tournament."

If he proves his fitness in the nets, Morgan will probably slot in at number five for England against Bangladesh in Chittagong on Friday.

But the absence of Pietersen does raise questions over the balance of the England side, with the issue of who should open the batting probably the most pressing.

England's strategy of challenging Pietersen to rediscover his best form at the top of the order had been a qualified success, with the opener notching scores of 39, 31, 59 and two in England's four World Cup games so far.

His positive approach allowed Andrew Strauss to play his natural game at the other end, with the England skipper scoring 88 in the opener against the Netherlands and a brilliant 158 in the tie with India.

Kevin Pietersen wagon wheel

"The one thing that has worked for England has been the batting so far in this tournament," added Gatting. "Regardless of how many runs Pietersen has scored himself, England have a strategy in place and they will have to re-think that now.

"Having sorted out a game-plan it is not ideal to have to change the make-up of the team."

According to Gatting, the contenders for the opener's slot are Ravi Bopara, Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell.

Should England be looking for a like-for-like replacement for Pietersen, then Bopara would probably be the man to move up the order.

But after the Essex man top-scored with a composed 60 in the dramatic victory over South Africa on Sunday, England may be reluctant to change his role.

Trott and Bell have the technique and skill to perform at any position, but their success at numbers three and four respectively, and their relatively modest one-day strike rates of below 80, could place an unnecessary burden on Strauss to take risks in the early powerplays.

It's always nice to have people who can do a bit extra within the team

Mike Gatting on Pietersen

Meanwhile, wicketkeeper Matt Prior was given the chance to make the role his own during the one-day series against Australia but two ducks and a return of 99 runs from five innings did little to press his case.

Without Pietersen, England will also lose the option of using a third spinner on the slow, low pitches of the subcontinent - a tactic which seems to be gaining popularity as the tournament unfolds.

Despite the pain from his hernia, Pietersen got through eight important overs in Sunday's low-scoring triumph over South Africa in Chennai, a match in which both teams opened the bowling with a spinner.

With Chittagong set to be an equally spin-friendly track, and England returning to Chennai for their final group game against West Indies, a shortage of slow-bowling alternatives could yet prove costly.

Gatting points to Pietersen's dismissal of Australia batsman Michael Clarke from the last ball of day four in the Ashes Test in Adelaide as evidence of the worth of his part-time spin.

"It's always nice to have people who can do a bit extra within the team," said Gatting.

"Pietersen proved that in the Ashes, when his wicket before the close in Adelaide actually won them the Test down there.

"Anybody who can do something a little bit extra is very useful. Against South Africa he bowled eight overs very well and helped them win the match - so of course they will miss that."

England players celebrate

Brilliant bowling edges England past SA

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see also
Pietersen ruled out of World Cup
07 Mar 11 |  Cricket
England stun S Africa in thriller
06 Mar 11 |  England
Struggling to hit the gas
05 Mar 11 |  England
England's World Cup woe
04 Mar 11 |  England
Strauss stunned by England defeat
02 Mar 11 |  England
Brilliant Ireland shock England
02 Mar 11 |  Cricket
England & India in thrilling tie
27 Feb 11 |  England
Ragged England sneak past Dutch
22 Feb 11 |  England
Pietersen confirms opening role
16 Feb 11 |  England
Retirement talk nonsense - Pietersen
16 Feb 11 |  Cricket
Cricket World Cup 2011
09 Mar 11 |  Cricket

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