Morgan showed no signs of the backache that threatened his involvement in the Cricket World Cup group game on Tuesday as he launched a one-day international record 17 sixes into the crowd at Old Trafford.
His 148 runs propelled England to 397-6, the sixth-highest total at a World Cup and the highest so far at this tournament. The 17 sixes are the most by a batsman in a one-day international, one better than the previous record shared by three others.
Morgan equaled Chris Gayle's World Cup record of 16 sixes — for the West Indies against Zimbabwe in 2015 — with a six over long-on to move to 142, and went one better when he flat-batted a Gulbadin Naib delivery straight back over the bowler's head and into the rope. The TV umpire confirmed it was six, and umpire Paul Reiffel held up both arms to confirm it.
When he tried to go down the ground again on the next ball, he managed to only hit it directly to Rahmat Shah at long-off. "Yeah, the back feels good," Morgan said, laughing, after England completed a 150-run win. "Absolutely delighted with the way it's come through that."
Morgan had scored 12 previous ODI centuries — including one for Ireland before switching allegiance to England in 2009 — but said he'd never experienced anything like the innings he played against Afghanistan. The only blemish was a reprieve on 28, when he was dropped on the boundary by Dawlat Zadran.
"Never, never have I ever thought I could play a knock like that," Morgan said, adding that part of his motivation was uncertainty over whether he should go in at 164-2 in the 30th over, or let a bigger hitter like Jos Buttler bat above him. "I think coming in at the time where it was a 50-50 shout whether myself or Jos went in probably helped that, because after I faced a few balls, I had no choice.
"I had to start taking risks because of him coming in next, and then after I got dropped, it was a matter of just keep going. Yeah, one of those days." Morgan walked off in the 47th over with the team total on 21 sixes, leaving all-rounder Moeen Ali to finish off the job when he cleared the rope four times from the nine balls he faced in an unbeaten 31.
The 25 sixes are the most in an ODI by any team, beating England's own previous record of 24 this year against the West Indies in Grenada. Morgan's 22 sixes so far in this World Cup also are second on the all-time list to Gayle's 26 in the 2015 tournament.
And his century from 57 balls is the fourth-fastest in World Cup history. The fastest was 50 balls in 2011 by Kevin O'Brien for Ireland against England. The total was England's highest ever at the World Cup, and also a ground record for Old Trafford, breaking India's two-day-old record of 336-5 against Pakistan.
The highest World Cup total is 417-6 by Australia against Afghanistan in Perth en route to the title in 2015. Morgan said the performance against Afghanistan put England on a good setting or its game against Sri Lanka on Friday and next week's game against the defending champion Australians. His innings, the 32-year-old left-hander said, would inspire more internal competition within the team.
Buttler has the record for the fastest ODI century by an England batsman, reaching triple figures off 46 balls. Jason Roy, who was injured and missed the Afghanistan game, has the highest ODI score for England with 180 against Australia last year.
"I think I'm probably just becoming a target for the guys in the changing room to take down," Morgan said. "The 100 I scored is considered a slow one in our changing room. Guys talk about it all the time. So, yeah, tough school."
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