After Eoin Morgan lifted the World Cup last summer, he took time to consider whether he still wanted to be the man to take England forward.
The transformative, four-year road to white-ball glory had taken a lot out of the England captain, both physically and mentally, and whether or not to embark on another cycle, leading the team until at least the T20 World Cup, was not a decision he wanted to take lightly.
A year on – despite the tournament having been pushed a further 12 months down the line – it looks like he made the right call.
In 10 T20i innings since the end of the World Cup, Morgan has averaged 51, a run that included his highest-ever international score in the format (91) and three other half-centuries.
Sunday’s 66 off 33 balls, anchoring England to victory over Pakistan at Old Trafford, was the latest of them, and the 33-year-old believes he is hitting the ball better than ever.
“Definitely and the numbers back that up,” he said. “Even before this series started, certainly in T20 cricket, the last two years of international cricket and some domestic are my best numbers to date.
Morgan blitz helps England take series lead over Pakistan
“It’s nice that I’m feeling good but it’s actually replicated in the numbers as well.”
The secret, he believes, is having ownership of where and when he bats.
“I think experience and confidence and actually the roles that I play I’m more comfortable with,” Morgan added. “Before I became captain, jumping up and down the order I didn’t feel that comfortable with, whereas now that it’s my decision I feel more at ease.”
More troubling over the coming 12 months may be working out exactly who should bat above and below him.
At the top of the order, Morgan’s problem is the proverbial ‘nice one to have’. With Jos Buttler absent on Test duty and Jason Roy out injured, Tom Banton has been given the opportunity to open in the current series.
Tom Banton hit an impressive 71 in the first T20 against Pakistan on Friday (Getty Images for ECB)
A coming-of-age 71 off 42 balls in Friday night’s washed-out opener was followed by a powerplay partnership of 65 with Jonny Bairstow on Sunday, though his more experienced team-mate did most of the heavy lifting.
With Bairstow up the order, Dawid Malan has slotted in at three, and stroked it around nicely for his own 50 on Sunday, even if he had to play second fiddle to Morgan. His inability to start quickly may hold him back, but his numbers speak for themselves.
“I think we’re in a period where there are a lot of good top-order batters available to us,” Morgan said. “I don’t know why that is. I know a lot of the guys who tend to score the majority of their runs for the counties bat in the top three or four, so that might be the case.
“It’s great to see those two coming in scoring those runs. Tom, the way he played the other day is exactly how we see him play in a Somerset shirt so that’s awesome. Dawid has just continued to score runs at a rate so his start to his international career is unlike many others.”
With so much depth up top, it has been suggested that the team might be better balanced by shuffling Buttler down the order, into the flexible finishing position in which several players have been given chances over the past few series, but that none has so far made his own.
Should Jos Buttler be moved down the batting order? (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
That is, Morgan says, still an option looking ahead to the World T20, but he highlighted the key difference between Buttler, Roy and Bairstow – who lest we forget, have one global medal in their pockets already – and the likes of Banton and Malan, who are so keen to force their way in.
“When you’re trying to fine tune selection of the final XI – which is very hard to do a year out from a World Cup – the teams that you pit them against are the best in the world,” he said. “So, do they perform like that against the best in the world? Or do they just perform against a certain number of teams?
“The three guys at the top of the order in our strongest XI do it against everybody, which is one of our strengths. Whereas if you were to bring one of the younger guys in who was less experienced, with less runs under his belt, it might be a bigger challenge.”
For Morgan himself, of course, both experience and runs are in plentiful supply.