Freed from the shackles of conservatism that blighted their previous ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup campaigns, hosts and favourites England stand on the precipice of their defining one-day international moment.
Eoin Morgan’s side have risen from the ashes of their poor campaign in the showpiece last time, following that group-stage exit by ascending to the summit of the MRF Tyres ICC ODI Team Rankings.
They have done so amid a flurry of fours and sixes, fielding the most dominant batting unit in 50-over cricket and racking up wins with astonishing consistency. Their 4-0 beating of Pakistan earlier this summer means England haven’t lost a multi-game series for two-and-a-half years.
Throughout that run, there’s been the unmistakable feeling of their crescendo drawing ever closer on the horizon: the 2019 World Cup on home soil. Can England finally win the prize missing from their trophy cabinet?
Strengths and weaknesses
It is a great paradox that England possess arguably the deepest line-up in the tournament – depending on their XI, they could potentially bat all the way through it – but don’t often need it. Johnny Bairstow and Jason Roy boast the highest strike-rates of any openers in ODI history to have posted more than 1,000 runs, yet still have the highest average of any pair topping the order in the competition. No. 3 Joe Root is one of the world’s best players in all formats and, as if that isn’t daunting enough, is backed up by skipper Morgan and the dazzling Jos Buttler, while Ben Stokes leads a talent-laden cast of all-rounders.
In men’s ODI history, only 20 players have ever averaged over 25 with the bat at a strike-rate over 100. Four of them – Buttler, Roy, Bairstow and Moeen Ali – play in this team.
For all they sit at the summit of the 50-over game, England’s death-bowling record since the 2017 Champions Trophy leaves plenty to be desired. However, hope comes in the form of electrifying paceman Jofra Archer, who has only just qualified to represent the three lions and was immediately parachuted into the fold. A brilliant yorker bowler with extreme speed, Archer could make a considerable difference.
Key player: Jos Buttler
It speaks to just how complete Buttler’s game now is that he sneaks beyond Root to earn this honour. As the months go on and England’s wicket-keeper batsman continues to shatter records and rack up centuries with increasing consistency, he begins to edge closer to that rarefied air once occupied by AB de Villiers. He is already arguably the most devastating ODI batsman in England’s history – as evidenced by him averaging over 41 at a strike-rate only a tick under 140 – and could catapult himself into the conversation as one of the worldwide all-time greats with a strong tournament.
X Factor: Adil Rashid
While much of the focus surrounding this team is on their outstanding batsmen, it could be their diverse bowling attack that proves crucial. Leading the way is leg-spinner Adil Rashid, who has taken more wickets than any other bowler since the tournament’s 2015 edition. Such is Morgan’s confidence in his tweaker that Rashid is called upon throughout an innings, utilising excellent variations to make opposing batsmen’s lives miserable.
England hosted the first men’s World Cup in 1975 and reached the semi-final, setting in motion a run of five successive events where they progressed to that stage. But they couldn’t capitalise to the fullest extend – losing in the 1979, 1987 and 1992 finals – and have not been in the final four in the six tournaments since.
W W W W NR W L W NR L (most recent first)
Having drawn a closely fought series in the West Indies, England looked commanding once more upon returning to home soil as they brushed aside Pakistan 4-0.
30 May: v South Africa, The Oval, London
03 June: v Pakistan, Trent Bridge, Nottingham
08 June: v Bangladesh, Cardiff Wales Stadium, Cardiff
14 June: v West Indies, Hampshire Bowl, Southampton
18 June: v Afghanistan, Old Trafford, Manchester
21 June: v Sri Lanka, Headingley, Leeds
25 June: v Australia, Lord’s London
30 June: v India, Edgbaston, Birmingham
03 July: v New Zealand, The Riverside, Durham
Squad: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler (wk), Tom Curran, Liam Dawson, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, James Vince, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.