Almost never has a team been as well positioned to win a World Cup than England are this year. The number one-ranked ODI team and tournament hosts have been hampered by some off-field limitations such as batsman Alex Hales’ controversial omission, but remain well placed to claim a first title in 12 attempts.
A third semi-final exit or fourth runner-up finish just won’t suffice for a team that has been tipped to win the World Cup a full 12 months before the opening match. Their batting ranks are explosive, as shown across several 350-plus ODI totals against Pakistan earlier this month. Their bowling department is penetrative and fielding livewire. They are the complete package, but are under tremendous pressure to make all this count in front of fans and critics alike.
Batsman Eoin Morgan is an astute, inventive leader – and the country’s most capped ODI cricketer. Unlike the Test attack’s veteran James Anderson, the ODI group lacks a genuine leader, but have the expertise and form of seamers Mark Wood and Chris Woakes at the helm. So blessed are England with talent, batsman Joe Denly and seamer David Willey have been overlooked at the last chance.
Batsman to bank on
With all this expectation comes as much pressure. While Morgan will be able to balance this in the middle order, the South African-born Jason Roy needs to keep cool, calm and collected at the top. He recently returned from injury – and reminded all of prodigious talent by banging a century and twin half-tons against Pakistan. In the absence of Hales, he is the one tasked with bringing plenty of entertaining runs.
Bowler to bet on
Willey’s loss is fellow seamer Jofra Archer’s gain. The Barbados-born Archer’s graduation to the ODI squad had been a long time coming and, after obligatory qualification timelines and documentation, England are ready to unleash this fine talent on the global stage.
The opening fixture of the 2019 World Cup, contested by England and South Africa at The Oval in London, will evidence two themes – both teams are hellbent on collecting a maiden title, but only one will likely be in 14 July’s final at Lord’s. We’ll get an inkling of insight into which one after 30 May’s result.
For all the billing, backing and betting, England genuinely look good for the title. They have the form to complement conditions – and have made tough personnel decisions to send the best, balanced 15 into this tournament. If not the title, then at least another runner-up finish.