At the last 50 over World Cup in 2015, England delivered some abject performances before a final humiliation at the hands of Bangladesh saw the side exit the competition at the group stage. It was a dismal display but some would argue that it was the best thing to happen to English limited overs cricket since the format was introduced.
Coach Peter Moores paid the ultimate price as he lost his role while the curtain also came down on the ODI career of Ian Bell. The game was changing and England had to change with it.
Catalyst for success
Back in 2015, scores in international 50 over cricket had started to exceed the 400 mark but England’s rather pedestrian nature meant that they were never likely to reach those heights. Four years later, however, much has changed.
In the list of highest team totals in ODIs, England sit in first and second place in the table with a world record of 481-6 against Australia in 2018 leading the way. A timid approach to batting has given way to a fearless style that keeps coming at the bowlers no matter what stage the game has reached and clearly it’s paying dividends.
On home soil in 2019, bookmakers who offer cricket betting, such as 888 Sport, suggest that captain Eoin Morgan’s side are current favourites to win their first major trophy in the long form and if they can maintain their strike rate with the bat, the hosts can justify that billing.
England have broken team records with the bat, but records for highest individual scores have been smashed too. Prior to that 2015 tournament, Robin Smith’s undefeated 167 against Australia in 1993 was the benchmark but that total has been beaten twice in the three subsequent years.
Alex Hales was the first to pass Smith’s target with 171 against Pakistan in 2016 but the current record holder is Jason Roy who smashed 180 against Australia at the end of the 2017/18 Ashes Tour. Both men will be vital to England’s cause and while Jonny Bairstow has kept Hales out of the side on occasions, the selectors simply have to find a place for the Notts Outlaw.
Hales has six ODI tons and an average just above 37 while Roy’s record is remarkably similar with six centuries and an average just a fraction higher. When they open the batting, it’s rare for both men to fail and their powerful partnership will be crucial at next year’s tournament.
Middle order impetus
England’s Jos Buttler has also broken records since the 2015 World Cup and while Hales and Roy are key batters at the top of the order, the keeper/batsman provides the impetus in the later overs. Buttler scored the fastest ODI hundred by an England player, reaching three figures from just 46 balls against Pakistan in 2015.
The Lancashire man is a versatile player who can even open the batting but is at his best when flaying tired bowlers to all parts towards the end of an innings. Following England’s tour of Sri Lanka in 2018, Buttler had recorded six ODI tons with a career average at a shade under 40.
Moeen Ali’s qualities as a genuine all-rounder mean that England can have the luxury of playing two spinners at next year’s World Cup. In English conditions, seamers will play a big part but Moeen and Adil Rashid have formed a strong partnership which has the ability to strangle sides in the middle overs.
Rashid’s emergence in all forms of the game has been a major positive for England this year and at the end of 2018, the leg-spinner’s ODI record is improving with 119 wickets at an economy rate of 5.51. Moeen Ali, meanwhile, has 78 wickets and is slightly more economical, going at 5.12 per over. The Worcestershire all-rounder is pretty handy with the bat too, hitting three ODI tons with a best of 128.
England will name a squad with plenty of depth and the likes of Bairstow, Morgan, Joe Root, Ben Stokes and the Curran brothers will all have roles to play but the key men listed above will prove crucial in 2019 if cricket is to finally come home.