They’re the current ODI numero uno. But their media is still making jokes about England successfully overcoming their first World Cup obstacle by releasing their theme song before it starts; unlike 1999, when they did so a day after being ejected. But hidden under these frivolities are scars that span back to the start of this event; denied at the very end since 1975.
Their narrative — even with its inevitable sad ending — at least saw them be the bridesmaid. But that soured further on this side of the millennium; they became the nondescript guest seated near the aisle. Finals and semifinals became group-stage burnouts. With the red ball, they were playing the gentleman’s game with finesse. But its white, leathered brother needed something more than just a puritanical approach.
Those constant blows resulted in the English think-tank finally stumbling upon that realisation: they needed to compartmentalise resources. That did start with Alastair Cook being let go of as skipper before the 2015 edition. But it was only when their faces were rubbed in the dirt by Bangladesh that England smelled their coffee. Four years on, those white seeds sown by Bayliss have bloomed. England have three lions, one for each format. The one being ridden by Eoin Morgan has been roaring. So much so the Barmy Army need not be in two minds when they break into a song that goes, “It has come home, and it is staying here”.
Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Jos Buttler (vc & wk), Tom Curran, Joe Denly, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.
Head coach: Trevor Bayliss
Name a current World Cup team that could have as many as 10 batsmen in their XI? Okay. Name one with a squad that has only two players who haven’t scored an ODI fifty? Trivia trinkets apart, the success that England have been engineering in the 50-over format over the past few years has come from one basic aspect: they bat deep, really deep. So deep that when they ended up scoring the world’s highest ODI score last year (481/6), a certain Joseph Edward Root had to come in at No 7 to play out six balls. Oh, and they’re also playing at home. Do we need say more?
Even the Death Star had its innocuous thermal exhaust port. For Morgan & Co, it’s their pace battery. Three of their main pacers — Mark Wood, Tom Curran, and David Willey — are yet to cross the 50-wicket mark in ODIs. They do have experienced spinners in Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali, who may paper over this crack. They also have the hope of receiving a late reinforcement in the form of Jofra Archer.
Six centuries in the last year and a half. Became first Englishman to score three on the trot while doing that. Will play a prominent role if they go all the way to Lord’s.
The second-most experienced speedster after Liam Plunkett, a lot of English hopes will be resting on Woakes, who is lethal with the new ball.