With less than a month until the Cricket World Cup kicks off down under, Online Sport Editor Freddie Turner tries to give England fans a reason to be optimistic.
England have been perpetually poor at One Day cricket for the past two decades. Aside from one isolated T20 World Cup win in 2010, their record at major tournaments is abysmal. Far too frequently England sides have lacked the dynamism and nous to compete with their contemporaries.
Seemingly Test cricket has always been the priority, with coaches judged on their Test or perhaps even their Ashes record. Equally there appears to have been an unwillingness amongst selectors to separate the skills needed in the two different forms of the game, with the One Day side frequently saturated with Test match plodders.
Until last month, when Alastair Cook was removed as One Day captain, little appeared to have changed. The Test match captain was the perfect illustration of a player being selected on the merit of his Test reputation as oppose to his achievements in the shorter form. However, due to his substandard form, the selectors were forced to drop him and appoint One Day specialist Eoin Morgan as captain.
Although unsettling, this may well prove to a blessing for England as it finally means they are able to select a side purely on specific merit, without the need to compromise to accommodate Cook. Peter Moores and his selectors can now pick their strongest ODI line up. When in form, Morgan is England’s best ODI batsman and he should garner the respect of his team-mates. Hopefully it can also continue to galvanise his own performance, as it did in his first match on Friday where he scored his first ODI century for 12 months.
In that game, England’s top order capitulated amidst a bombardment of fast bowling. Although a worry, I believe this was merely a blip. The opening combination of Ian Bell and Moeen Ali appears extremely well balanced. Ali showcased his ability in Sri Lanka, with a couple of barnstorming innings. His free flowing strokes and aggressive mind-set are a breath of fresh air for English cricket.
Meanwhile Ian Bell is now England’s most experienced player. Although his success has mainly come in the Test arena, unlike Cook his fluent stroke play lends itself to the shorter form. His record as an opener in ODI’s is admirable and often overlooked, with an average of 40.4 at a decent strike rate of 77.95 . His 187 in Canberra on Wednesday underlined his credentials. If the two can find form, they should complement each other perfectly.
The middle order looks to be England’s strength. Despite continued clamours for Kevin Pietersen’s reselection (often by KP himself) I believe England now have their strongest line up. James Taylor has been the best player in domestic One Day cricket for the past two years, with a career List A average of 51.96. The diminutive genius has finally been given his deserved chance and has all the ability to become a star.
Joe Root was England’s man of the series in Sri Lanka, scoring 372 runs and in 2014 he was a run machine on the International scene. Whilst Morgan, Ravi Bopara and Jos Buttler give England some much needed destructive capacity and rope clearing ability. If these three are given a suitable platform, they can wreak havoc at the end of an innings and will push England above that magic 300 mark. Scoring 300+ consistently is the only way England can win the World Cup.
The bowling is perhaps the weaker of England’s two disciplines. The return to fitness of stalwarts Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad is a boost but their influence is much diminished in the One Day game. Indeed, if Anderson cannot get the ball to swing, his bowling is rendered impotent and his economy rate often expensive. Meanwhile Steven Finn and Chris Jordan lack consistency and regularly leak runs.
Perhaps England’s most effect ODI bowler is the canny James Tredwell, who has consistently performed for the Three Lions. His record is exemplary with an average of 27.81 at an economy rate of 4.77. His variety and guile mean his economy rate is often low and he consistently restricts the opposition in the middle overs. However, his place is far from certain with Ali guaranteed selection on account of his batting. Unless the wicket is susceptible to spin, England will more than likely not select Tredwell which may well be to their detriment.
Unless England’s seam battery can find form, England’s attack will not prove destructive. Their best bet might be to aim to contain, using Bopara, Ali and Tredwell collectively. The emphasis will be on Morgan to shuffle his options intelligently.
England are rank outsiders heading into this World Cup. Three consecutive ODI series defeats, coupled with a change in leadership is far from the perfect preparation. This added to England’s atrocious ODI reputation, mean even the most ardent supporter would not expect silverware. The two hosts both look strong, as do reigning champions India and perennial chokers South Africa. However, the reduced expectation may work in England’s favour. On paper, their batting order looks well balanced and dynamic. Perhaps under their dynamic new leader they may just cause a surprise.bookmark me