Much has been made of England’s prospects ahead of this summer. 2019 represents an opportunity for the players involved to go down in cricketing folklore as those that won the two greatest prizes in cricket: the Ashes and the World Cup.
The second item on that list is the one that will attract everyone’s attention first, with the fifty-over competition getting underway at the end of May. A home victory would give England their first World Cup trophy ever, and for once, many people seem to think that it might happen. England aren’t used to being favourites in world cups, but it’s easy to see why they’ve been given the tag this time around by pundits and oddsmakers alike.
Here, we take a look at the logic behind those opinions.
Look at the last two winners of the World Cup: Australia and India. Both were on home turf when they lifted ODI cricket’s most coveted prize, so it certainly helps that England are going for glory in their own back yard.
Of course, home advantage on its own is not enough. The primary advantage any home side is that they know conditions, and that their style of play complements those conditions. As far as England are concerned, their aggressive, hard-hitting top order thrive on the flat, true pitches of Trent Bridge, Edgbaston, the Oval et al.
The one complication here is that the ICC’s regulations mean that certain pitches must be re-used during the latter stages of the tournament. While that certainly benefits sides from the subcontinent, there’s a chance that not too many of them will make it to the last four. England’s home advantage, while not enough on its own, will help them significantly during the group games, setting them on the path to glory.
Plenty of names sit above Eoin Morgan’s in the official ODI batting rankings table. Virat Kohli, Ross Taylor, Quinton de Kock, and thirteen others all have higher “ratings”. Few captains in world cricket, though, can claim to be better at … well, captaining.
Not only is Morgan one of the coolest players in the world when under pressure, he has also been at the heart of this ODI side’s resurgence over the past four years. That in itself means that he has earnt the respect of every member of this World Cup squad, and that he knows all of them extremely well. He understands what makes his team mates tick, when to bowl whom, and how to get the best out of all eleven men in the side.
Add into the equation that he’s coming into form at just the right time, and few could argue that England have one of the best leaders at the tournament. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a better skipper. Few combine leadership with individual performance in the same way as the Three Lions’ captain.
Recent stories about one of England’s World Cup squad members might, in some circumstances, have caused far more problems than they actually have. The fact that England can axe Alex Hales and not dent their top order is testimony to the incredible line-up they have.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that our ODI batting line-up is the best in world cricket. The brutality of the opening pair, the class of Joe Root, the genius of Jos Buttler, the level-headedness of Eoin Morgan, and the hitting power of Stokes and Ali has come together perfectly on countless occasions in recent years. When one fails, the next man in steps up.
The scariest thing is that few of these players haven’t been in great nick recently. The tournament’s prologue against Pakistan represents the perfect opportunity for everyone to put right any dips in form, while those in form will welcome the chance to get in some competitive practice. Whichever way you look at it, England’s batting is seriously strong.
Whether or not this one happens is still unclear, but the mere fact that everyone is talking about Jofra Archer is good news regardless of what happens next. Pick Archer, and England have a real asset. If they don’t pick him, everyone will be so focussed on the fact that they haven’t picked him that England’s actual selection may slip under the radar somewhat.
The mere fact that the England squad is attracting so much attention is good enough. Other countries will be hoping for certain outcomes when it comes to that final list of names; in other words, they’re already facing battles before the tournament has begun. “Playing the man, not the ball” is a common expression in cricket, and it certainly applies here. Even if the man doesn’t end up playing, the attention he’s commanded could spell trouble for any side foolish enough to neglect England’s other bowlers.
If we’re being honest, though, Archer’s looked pretty useful so far during his short international career. He’ll ask questions of every batsman at the tournament if he’s picked, and he’ll make it all look annoyingly easy while he’s doing it. The likelihood is that he’ll be picked, it seems, and few could argue against that thinking.
If you’ve managed to land yourself some England tickets for the World Cup and are eager to join up with us on the day, there will be plenty going on before, during, and after all of the fixtures. Look out for Billy the Trumpet and stay tuned over the coming days for the release of our World Cup song!