The Cricket World Cup returns to its birthplace with many predicting a batting bonanza and the top-ranked hosts undoubtedly favourites. England have played in all 11 editions of the world cup reaching the finals three times, but they still await their maiden World cup title. Since 1992, England have failed to make it to the semi-finals, but this edition could change all that. They were, however, strongly fancied to win the 2017 50-over Champions Trophy as well, which they hosted, only to lose to eventual winners Pakistan in the semi-finals. That match saw England fail to adjust to a slow Cardiff pitch that was not ideally suited to attacking strokeplay. But England one-day captain Eoin Morgan said his side had learned their lesson.
A limp first-round departure at the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand was the catalyst for a transformation in England’s white-ball game based on aggressive batting, as exemplified by the likes of Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler. England are now even threatening to smash the 500-run barrier for the first time in an ODI innings, having set a new record total of 481 for six against Australia in Nottingham last year. And, their attack now has an extra threat in recently qualified Barbados-born fast bowler Jofra Archer, who was named in England’s squad of 15.
Steely-eyed captain Eoin Morgan, the explosive batting prowess up front of Bairstow, Roy & Buttler, add the versatility of Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, combine the stability of Moeen Ali and Joe Root, and viola! This is probably the best ever England outfit in the World Cup.
Before the action begins, England play two official warm-up games that give them the opportunity to fine-tune their playing XI. These matches are different in the sense that the teams are free to play all 15 of their squad to experiment with their lineups and test players for fitness issues. Both games are at 03.00pm and will be telecast on Star Sports and streamed live on Hotstar.
Eoin Morgan (capt), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Jos Buttler (wk), Tom Curran, Liam Dawson, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, James Vince, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood
The number one ODI side will be looking to bury the heartbreaks of three final defeats to finally bring the Cup to the birthplace of cricket.
Strength: One of the best batting sides packed with power-hitters like Jos Butler, Joe Root and Ben Stokes. A very good pace pace attack backed by Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid’s spin
Weakness: The weight of expectations can prove to be too heavy a burden and ruin their campaign
England have never won a World Cup in 44 years. Many believe that the 12th edition of the showpiece event of cricket will be the host’s best chance of etching its name on the coveted trophy in nearly half a century of limited overs cricket.
England has been building up on its resources for an assault on the World Cup for the last couple of years under Morgan and coach, Trevor Bayliss. The powerful batting lineup, the aggressive bowling and outstanding fielding are all a part of a well laid out plan. England face defending champions Australia in a warm up match on Saturday. The hosts open their campaign against South Africa in the tournament opener on May 30th at London.
Entering the last four stages in all the five World Cup tournaments between 1975 and 1992, England played three finals – in 1979, 1987 and 1992. The years 1999, 2003 and 2015 saw the team being ousted at the group stages. Its record, since 1996, tells the story of how limited overs cricket was neglected by England in the new millennium, while others paid special attention to the different versions of the game. Out of the 11 World Cup tournaments played till date, Australia has won five, the West Indies and India have won two each, and Pakistan and Sri Lanka have won one each.
The World Cup of 2019 will probably finally be a different story; at least English fans would like to believe so. The England team will bat deep, and it will bat with aplomb. Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Morgan, Jos Buttler and Joe Root are in excellent form. They will be backed by Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali and others who are capable of hitting the ball far back into the stands, and regularly.
Bairstow and Buttler are two batsmen who made merry in the Indian T20 League this season. The former, in particular, was severe on the bowlers in the ‘power play’ in the ten matches that he played for Sunrisers Hyderabad and has carried that form into the English season. Buttler, of course, has been batting like a champion ever since the IPL season of 2018. Roy too is as dangerous as they come and can hit the new ball a fair distance. Morgan and Root have the capability of holding the innings together while scoring at a good clip.
It is unfortunate that a batsman of the quality of Alex Hales had to be left out of the England plan for World Cup ‘19, not only because of his failed drug test, but as the team management said, because of his utter disregard for what the England team has worked for over the last couple of years.
English wickets are expected to be flat and dry this summer, was is visible in the ODI series against Pakistan. Therefore, large-hearted pacers like Jofra Archer, Chris Woakes, Liam Plunkett, Mark Wood and Stokes will fetch England value-for-money this World Cup. Spinners Moeen Ali and Rashid Khan will provide the much needed variety to the attack on tracks that do not respond to pace, seam and cut.
The England team has taken its fielding standards to new heights in recent years – its support staff has made certain that the team comes off the field having put in more than a hundred percent effort in saving runs, effecting run outs and converting half chances into catches. Man for man, England could be the best fielding side, this World Cup.
Looking at how the team shaped up against Pakistan in the ODI series, England should in all probability win seven out of its nine matches in the round-robin league, unless weather intervenes. The Indians and the Australians could push them to the ropes and the West Indies, if Chris Gayle and Andre Russell are in their element, could give them a fright. England should therefore make it to the final four without much of a sweat. The semifinal, and the final, is where their temperament will be tested.
ENGLAND AT THE WORLD CUP
Played – 72 | Won – 41 | Lost – 29 | Tied/No Result – 2 | Win percentage – 58.45%
1975 – semi-final, 1979 – runner-up, 1983 – semi-final, 1987 – runner-up, 1992 – runner-up, 1996 – quarter-final, 1999 – out in group stages, 2003 – out in group stages, 2007 – Super 8, 2011 – quarter-final, 2015 – out in group stages
Most runs: Graham Gooch (897 runs in 21 matches)
Most wickets: Ian Botham (30 in 16 matches)
“Winning is not a sometime thing; it is an all time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while … you do them right all the time, because winning is a habit,” said former American football coach, Vince Lombardi. He also said, “Like winning, losing is a habit too!” England has made it to the World Cup final thrice — and thrice it has faltered. It is time a highly talented team like England gets into the winning habit.
Forty-four long years have passed and 11 World Cups have come and gone. England’s mantelpiece is still empty; perhaps Eoin Morgan’s boys will get it right this time round.
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