For the masochists and nostalgia junkies craving one more sweet, sweet hit of an England ODI tournament meltdown, the day started so promisingly. Like an ageing rock band unable to resist playing its biggest hit one more time, so England returned to an old classic – the last minute, left-field team change – with Adil Rashid jettisoned and Jake Ball thrust into action.
Then, having bowled just two overs, Chris Woakes was forced off the field with an injury as Bangladesh’s openers moved their team to 50 without losing a wicket. So far, so familiar. After England’s joyously optimistic ODI cricket in the two years following their last major tournament debacle, here was a return to the gnawing, pessimistic unease of years gone by. Hello, old friend!
Fortunately though for England that was really as bad as things got – they might have scratched the paintwork on their shiny new limited overs sportscar, but ultimately the wheels stayed very much on.
With injury looking like it could well rule Woakes out for the tournament and the Jake Ball experiment not proving to be a huge success, questions remain about England’s bowling line-up – although Mark Wood and Liam Plunkett continued to impress, and the return of Rashid should offer a more balanced attack.
However, it is the batting firepower of England that their opponents most fear and on a good track at a gloriously sunny Oval, their top order made light work of what ended up being the highest successful chase in Champions Trophy history.
Jason Roy might have received the unequivocal backing of his captain on the eve of the tournament, but his miserable recent run continued here in South London as he tamely paddle swept a ball to the fielder at short fine leg – it is exactly the sort of attacking, unorthodox shot that England have picked him to play, but even if you’re made in Trevor Bayliss’ hyper-attacking image, you still look a little foolish when you get egg on your face.
Although Bangladesh have only set a 280-plus target twice outside Asia, it was difficult to escape the feeling that their Tamim Iqbal-inspired total of 305 was ultimately about 20 or 30 runs light of really challenging England, and so it proved.
Joe Root reaffirmed his class as one of the finest batsmen in world cricket with a well-crafted 133*, his 10th century, and highest score in ODI cricket. He did particularly well to battle through after appearing to twist his ankle early on, and his fitness for the remainder of the tournament will be a big concern for England.
Key support came from Alex Hales, whose partnerships with Root have the highest average of any pair in ODI cricket for England – from a minimum 10 innings – and who was unfortunate not to reach three figures as well, holing out on 95 as, taking a leaf out of Kevin Pietersen’s book (no, not that one), he attempted to bring up his hundred in style.
Morgan though picked up where he left off, his hot streak with the bat continuing, as he calmly marshalled England home, as ever unafraid to successfully take on the big shot and prevent Bangladesh from building any real pressure.
In the end, it was comfortable for the hosts, who overcame every setback they encountered to show why some rate them favourites for this tournament. However the deadly pace attacks of Australia and New Zealand will no doubt present a sterner task and perhaps a glimmer of hope for those who still can’t quite adjust to an ODI tournament with a competent-looking England.