After yet another series win for Eoin Morgan’s One Day International side, are they now favourites to win the World Cup?
The calamitous 2015 campaign in Australia and New Zealand, where they crashed out in the groups stages, including a loss to Bangladesh in the process, led the ECB to tear down and rebuild their entire ODI set-up.
Almost three years later, they’ve gone from being one of the worst one-day teams in the World, to being one of the best, with Australian captain Steve Smith acknowledging Morgan’s tactics and dynamic personnel. The new captain, new coaches and the key was new players, the best in the county game brought in and given support to back their skills and trust themselves to succeed.
Before the tournament had even started in 2015, England were in turmoil. Alistair Cook had just been sacked as ODI captain after an awful preparation series in Sri Lanka, losing 5-2, as well as his indifferent form and poor record since taking on the role.
His replacement was Eoin Morgan. He had just five games in the role before the World Cup started and from the teams selected, he didn’t have much choice in his team.
But since the start of 2016 and the ODI series in South Africa, England have won eight of the series they have been involved in, winning 27 games in total.
Specialist one-day players in Jason Roy, Jos Buttler, Adil Rashid and Morgan himself have allowed the team to have a different, fresher outlook from even the 2007 and 2011 CWC ODI teams. The likes of Jonathan Trott, Andrew Strauss and Matt Prior, who all had excellent one-day records, would have had to change their style massively to fit with the way limited-overs cricket has gone in the past 5 years. They’ve set World records for the highest total, broken the quickest centuries for England, highest score for England and regularly scored well over the 300 run benchmark in modern 50-over cricket seeing the team transform into the leading side in limited-overs International cricket.
As chronicled throughout the most recent series, following on from England’s 4-0 Ashes humiliation, the tourist’s bowling attack was seen to be selected and equipped much better for the Australian conditions than the side put out to defend the most prestigious trophy in International cricket.
Mark Wood, Liam Plunkett and Adil Rashid all came in and starred, as they have in the ODI arena for months, and Chris Woakes and Tom Curran were outstanding after their mediocre showing in the Test arena.
Throw in Test captain Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali and England have a balanced side with the possibility of utilising up to seven bowlers, depending on selection.
Playing bilateral series against each of the top Test playing nations since the 2015 World Cup and beating everyone except India (Only played away from home). As well as having early summer conditions in England, Morgan’s Men must think of themselves as the team to beat, possibly for the first time. They have 17/18 players who can walk into the team at any time and do an outstanding job. The increased standard of cricket in the Royal London One-Day Cup and Natwest T20 Blast keep allowing county pro’s to stake their claim for a place in the ODI & T20 squads, as in the case of brothers Tom and Sam Curran from Surrey.
When quizzed, Head Coach Trevor Bayliss certainly counts his team among the favourites:
“The way we have been playing one-day cricket over the last few years and with the World Cup at home, we should be one of the favourites.
In last years Champions trophy, also held in England & Wales, the only team to stop the hosts were an outstanding Pakistan team, who deservedly won the tournament in the end, despite being hit-and-miss outside of the event. “But only time will tell how we handle that. If we go into all series between now and that World Cup thinking we are favourites, that will be good practice for us. We will see how the players react.”
The year before that, it took a minor miracle from Carlos Brathwaite to deny England’s T20 side a second T20 World Cup crown. Although they went through the tournament as quiet outsiders, most would have had England’s name on the trophy with just six balls left of the final.
The ECB, Morgan and even Bayliss must feel that their next International trophy is within touching distance. If it is their first World Cup, after treble heartbreak in the tournament as runners up before, this ‘New England’ will go down in history.
This group of players has an opportunity to create a dynasty similar to that of Australia in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. They certainly have the talent. Can they just get over the line?