If ever there was an occasion in which to make capital of one’s home advantage, then a World Cup final at Lord’s would be right at the top of the list. Happily for Eoin Morgan, England’s captain, venues don’t get any more familiar than the ground at which he has been plying his trade for Middlesex since he was 16 years old.
And so, on the eve of the contest that will define the rest of his life, England’s captain cut a relaxed figure, believing that he and his team were well placed to take the occasion in their stride, even if the heightened atmosphere come Sunday morning was something that he would be encouraging his players to savour.
“I certainly feel pretty relaxed,” Morgan said during his pre-match press conference. “It is nice to be home. I’m also very excited about tomorrow.
“We’re going to enjoy the game regardless. We’re going to try and take in as much as we can, it’s a World Cup final, and we’re not going to shy away from that. As long as anything doesn’t affect performance, we’re going to try and take it in.”
England’s first appearance in a World Cup final for 27 years is the culmination of a dedicated four-year plan, dredged from the depths of the team’s inept display at the 2015 tournament in Australia and New Zealand, and inspired in no small part by Sunday’s opponents themselves, who handed out such a beating to England in their group-stage encounter in Wellington that Morgan was able to say that rock-bottom had been reached.
And while the distance his team has travelled since 2015 is remarkable in its own right, there’s an additional incentive to put on a show on Sunday.
For the first time since the 2005 Ashes, England’s exploits will be broadcast free-to-air, following Sky’s decision to share its coverage on a one-off basis with Channel 4. And while Morgan insisted he hadn’t allowed his thoughts to stray so far as to lifting the trophy, he recognised that the platform and the opportunity was there to showcase a side that could yet become the third men’s world champion team among major English sports, after the 1966 footballers and the 2003 rugby side.
“Cricket and sport in particular is very fickle,” Morgan said. “If you ever get ahead, it always seems to bite you in the backside, so for us to win it, I think around the country it would be awesome, great for the game.
“I think it would be quite iconic in certainly young kids’ memories if they are watching it at home and we manage to lift the trophy, it would be awesome.
“But I think it is important, regardless of if it’s terrestrial or what outlet, that whoever the target audience is – and certainly for us or the ICC it should be young kids – they get more exposure to the players and more insight into what cricket is about and what principles and, I suppose, disciplines it brings to young people being involved in it.”
Either way, the players will need to do the job for themselves first and foremost before they can allow their thoughts to be distracted by legacy issues – even if Morgan was grateful for the support that has come his team’s way so far in their campaign.
“It means a huge amount to me and everybody in the changing room,” he said. “It’s a culmination of four years of hard work, dedication, a lot of planning and it presents a huge opportunity to go on and try and win a World Cup.
“We had a lot of friends and family in the changing room after the semi-final [against Australia] because they are as important to our success as it is to us and everybody around the country, so it is important to share it.
“I think for everybody around the country, the support we’ve had throughout has been unquestionable and that makes you feel extremely lucky to be part of a team that has that sort of support.
“It presents another opportunity for both teams and the ICC to sell the game on a huge platform,” he added. “Two very strong sides [who will] hopefully produce a really good game of cricket. It’s on terrestrial television around the country and obviously various outlets online. It presents a huge opportunity for us to sell this great game.”
Morgan added that he had no great speech planned for the morning of the game, but rather that he would tailor his words to suit the mood that he encounters when the players convene in the dressing room.
“I always get asked this before games,” he said. “You never know what you are going to say. You have to go in and see what the mood is like in the camp. If it’s down, you need to pick it up. If it is too high, you need to bring it down. The majority of the times, over the last three or four games, it’s been right on point, I haven’t had a lot to do.”
As for New Zealand, Morgan described them as “extremely experienced players who have continually challenged the best in the world and had success doing it”.
“They are such a stable side,” he added. “They offer threats throughout with the ball and they’re just a stable side with the bat. I think there will be times throughout the game tomorrow where it could be won or lost, but I think it will be a really good game of cricket.”