England are back at the scene of their most agonising one day cricket encounter; the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). In that 1992 World Cup Final, Graeme Gooch’s experienced England team lost to Imran Khan’s Pakistan by 22 runs. The 1992 Final represents the closest England have ever come to lifting cricket’s most prestigious trophy. Perhaps the most worrying aspect is that this was 1992, nearly a quarter of a century ago, and the best they have managed in the intervening period has been a place in the quarter finals.
Unfamiliar sub-continent pitches have been their undoing in previous tournaments and expectations are low this time for what is after all a young, inexperienced but highly talented team. They start their 2015 World Cup campaign at the epic MCG this Saturday against who else but the old foes Australia in front of what will be a sold out 100,000 partisan crowd.
Eoin Morgan replacing Alistair Cook as England’s one day captain was an extremely bold decision, but one that should “bear fruit” for England in the future, if not in this tournament then definitely in the next which we will host in four years’ time.
Eoin Morgan has been the shining light of English one day cricket over the last six years since he made the switch over from Ireland, almost carrying the team on occasions with his free spirited, innovative brand of cricket, which should energise the rest of the squad, not just in the upcoming World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, but over the next four years building up to the 2019 tournament.
Morgan’s form has been very hit and miss though over the last 18 months which is probably why the selectors took so long to put Alistair Cook out of his misery, but Morgan has shown that he thrives under the pressure of leading the team with a real captain’s knock in the first ODI of the tri-series just a few weeks back.
England were on the verge of crumbling at 69-5 when Ravi Bopara departed, but a real gutsy innings of 121 from the out-of-form skipper led England to a respectable score of 234. It gave England something to bowl at but they were soundly beaten by the Aussies with 10 overs spare.
It’s fair to say that if Eoin Morgan has a good World Cup, then so too will England.
England’s Chances – The Dark Horses
England, on paper, have by far the most exciting one day cricket team most of us can remember.
For once we have match winners throughout the whole order, Moenn Ali has shown that he can deliver match winning performances on the big stage with bat and ball over the last 12 months. His opening partner Ian Bell has been in the form of his life since touching down in Australia, so exciting times at the top of the order.
James Taylor at three has been an absolute revelation for English one day cricket and shows the intent for England to move away from their past errors. He has shown he can be the rock to build around in a crisis, or an explosive presence should the situation require.
The middle order is made up of three very different one day players, Joe Root at four has everything needed to be the mainstay of English Cricket for the next decade, so he’s the perfect man to have high up the order. He can adapt brilliantly to the conditions on offer or the match situation and therefore Joe Root should go well.
Eoin Morgan at five is, when on song unplayable. He can hit any bowler in the world to wherever he desires and as mentioned earlier and England’s chances could rest of the performances of their skipper.
Wicket-keeper batsmen, Jos Buttler has got the potential to be the most electrifying one day cricketer England have ever produced. He can hit 360 degrees around the ground with his now quite common ramp shot bringing boundaries a plenty. But it is his calmness on and off the field which has earned him the vice captaincy, at the age of 24 showing he has the respect of the dressing room and coaching staff. If Jos Buttler has a great World Cup it will be a joy to watch for all, but will give England a great chance.
The bowling department is very strong for England and in James Anderson and Stuart Broad, England have two of the world’s best with 437 ODI wickets between them. It will be interesting to see how they both go after coming back from long term injuries.
Taking early wickets will be key in this World Cup as flat pitches and hot weather in Australia and New Zealand will make it a nightmare for teams if batsmen get going. So throw Steven Finn into the mix with Anderson and Broad and England have three genuine wicket taking options throughout the innings which has gone a begging in previous World Cups.
I think the “dark horses” tag suits England best, because there is a lot of talent in that squad, they just haven’t got the experience that most of the tournament favourites have. Many believe one of Australia, New Zealand or South Africa will be lifting the trophy in Melbourne on the 29th March but England can reach the semi-finals, and from there anything can happen. A good toss to win, a match winning individual performance or a great catch could take them all the way. Well at least that’s what the heart says.
Surprise Package: England
Player of the tournament: AB DeVilliers (South Africa)