3 pointsHere we go! The moment has arrived. World cup favorites took on World cup favorites for the last 2 decades (except this edition of course) England team managed to assemble a team that will finally win them the elusive world cup title. It is a bit like assembling a Japanese car in America. Parts from different part of the world. No rain threat. Bright sunny day. SA won the toss and elected to lose. Faf’s thought process was probably influenced by the knowledge of how effortlessly England have been chasing in recent times. They forgot to take it into account that this is a world cup where runs on the board is always a safer option. Anyway, World cup kicked off in style except of course for Bairstow and the team that is going to face Bairstow in the next match. Didn’t deter Jason Roy and their resident consolidator Joe Root. They steadied the ship until Phelu got rid of Jason Roy with a short one and three balls later Rabada threw one wide which Root managed to slap it straight to point. For some teams, this is a major collapse. Not so much for England. Morgan and Stokes took the onus and raise another century partnership. With 14 overs left Morgan holed out. Butler was in. Expected carnage didn’t happen. Butler left after a brief partnership with Stokes. Soon Amla’s counterpart left the crease. It was left to the tail to take them to a decent total. Their thoughts of getting to 500 vanished thick and fast. They huffed and puffed their way to 311 on the back of Stokes’s 97. Rabada didn’t exactly provide the kind of penetration at the death. Taken for plenty. At one point they looked like getting to 400, then 350, then 325.. then 290 and ended up reaching 311. So both teams looked happy halfway stage. Bowlers did their bit in the death in the absence of Steyn Response by South Africa didn’t exactly pan out well in a scary way. Amla took a blow to his helmet and ended up leaving the ground failing the concussion Test. Markram who expressed his surprise at his selection for the world cup, batted briefly and got out to Archer and showed us why he was surprised at his own selection. The onus was on the captain to resurrect the innings along with De Kock. Archer drew the second blood for his newly adopted country. Technically third blood. Faf couldn’t keep the ball down while pulling to deep square leg. The writing was pretty much on the wall for them. But defiant Van der Dussen and De Kock resurrected the innings with a counterattacking partnership. Right about the time when SA looked like they were going to pull off a miracle, they decided self-destruction is the way to go. Lost 3 quick wickets for very few runs. First De Kock couldn’t capitalize on a rubbish ball from Plunkett and managed to hole out in deep. Pretorious showed his inexperience by calling for a non-existent 2nd run and got run out. Then it was Duminy’s turn to have a brain fade. A low percentage of lofted shot to long off. That didn’t stop there. Van der dussen thought it was a great idea to take on the best bowler for England on that day. Another batsman holed out. He was followed by Phelu. Although wicket was taken by Rashid, full credit should go to Stokes who plucked the ball out of thin air in Ninja style. Implosion continued and their misery ended before 40 overs. With the inclusion of Archer England looks more potent than before. Two of their top batsmen failed in this match. 4 of them got the fifties. I expect them to come out guns blazing in the next match. Looking forward to England’s next encounter.
1 pointIn the 2015 World Cup, the England-Bangladesh group game was a virtual pre-quarterfinal. The winner of the game was to be rewarded with a place in the knock out phase in a tournament where the top 8 sides, if they played to their potential, were guaranteed a spot in the next stage. But Bangladesh managed to go past England to secure the spot. The loss, which was 2nd against Bangladesh in World Cups in the 2010s, forced England to review its world cup game. Traditionally, England is a team that is more focused on test cricket. With only a handful of nations playing competitive cricket, England did not have to work hard to secure a spot in knockouts at the limited overs world events. It made the knock out stage in the first four world cups, playing the final in two of those four events. The 90s saw the emergence of Sri Lanka as a limited overs powerhouse, while South Africa returned to international cricket. The competitive landscape in limited overs had changed. In world events, the acceptable metric is to reach the last four. Since 1992, England has not been in the last four of the ODI World Cups. However, it should be noted that among the failures in ODI World Cups, England has won the T20 World Cup and reached the final of Champions Trophy in 2004. In 2015, the think tanks in England sat down to redraw boundaries by thinking outside the box with the goal to win the 2019 World Cup which was to be played at home. The 2010s have seen the host countries triumph. India beat the co-host Sri Lanka in 2011 final, and Australia achieved a similar feat by beating co-host New Zealand in 2015. The 2011 and 2015 finals were played in India and Australia respectively. If the trend of home teams winning the world cup in this decade is to continue, England would have a great chance in 2019 if it is able to put together a team that can play competitive cricket. In the past, England rewarded players with good performances in tests with a place in white ball cricket. Now it would need to shift its focus to ODI specialists. Among other concerns, chasing totals has been an Achilles heel. It lost three finals (1979, 1987, and 1992) while batting second. England also lacks All-Time-Great (ATG) level bowlers such as McGrath and Warne. As saying goes – If you are average, you get bad results. If you are good, you get average results. If you are great, you get good results. To get great results, you have to be excellent. While England had good bowlers, it had the opportunity to develop some excellent batsmen and all-rounders. The strategy moving forward was to concentrate on the strengths to turn the ODI team into a batting powerhouse to cover for both the lack of ATG level bowlers and account for the past failures to chase down totals. Over the last four years, England put together a team that can not only put mammoth totals on board but also pursue big totals. To develop into a batting powerhouse, England has also thrown convention out of the window. Its batsmen have revitalized cricket by playing a brand of fearless cricket. Traditionally, a wicket lost puts pressure on the batting side. By developing batting depth, England has taken that concern out of equation relatively. For example, if the top 4 batsmen fail, the opposition would need to deal with the dangerous Jos Buttler, along with a lower order that can strike big hits in at will. While the bowling is relatively weak, it is still competitive. To illustrate, players like Jofra Archer are drafted to give the attack wicket taking abilities. Bowlers like Liam Plunkett are known to create wicket-taking opportunities in the middle overs. Today (June 8th, 2019), England played its group game against Bangladesh, which was seeking to complete the hat-trick of wins in ODI World Cups against England. In its last game, England narrowly lost to the underdog Pakistan, chasing the mammoth 348. The silver lining in that loss is that not many teams would have gotten this close to such a mammoth total. The loss also highlighted the need to sharpen up the fielding. In today’s game, England needed to bounce back from that narrow loss to take on an improved Bangladesh, which has enjoyed success against it lately in such events. Having put into bat first, England scored 386 and went on to beat Bangladesh by 106 runs. With this win, England has not only bounced back from the loss in the last game but also gone past its nemesis in World Cups this decade. England has shown the ability to learn from its mistakes and improve its game. This success and approach probably point towards the rise of "New" England in ODIs. While England can claim to be the strongest side in this world cup, it needs to be aware that the strongest teams do not always win the tournament. Examples of failures to get past the hurdles include West Indies in 1983 and England itself in 1987 and 1992. New Zealand played the best cricket in 1992 but failed to lift the trophy. South Africa too appeared unstoppable in 1999. In this world cup, England has cards staked in its favor. To win, England should continue to trust its game, play fearlessly, and more importantly enjoy its cricket. If it is able to achieve that it is difficult to see England not being crowned as the 2019 world champion.
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