At the 2015 Cricket World Cup England played six matches before they were eliminated as they failed to make the knockout games. Across the whole time they lasted, they hit 18 sixes.
At Old Trafford on Tuesday, things could not have been more different. England managed 25 sixes in one innings — a world record. In fact, this was England going one better than the 24 sixes they managed against West Indies in Antigua in February.
17 of those came from the bat of Eoin Morgan, another world record of course. It was an addition to the massive list of records that this England team have managed since the last World Cup where overnight they decided to stop being terrible at one-day cricket and thought that revolutionising batting was the better way to go.
It is worth taking a moment to run through the records that this England team have broken in the last four years. They now have the highest ever total in ODIs, most sixes in an innings by both a player and a team. England’s six highest totals, and 12 of the highest 13, have been made in the last four years. The top 10 fastest hundreds in England’s ODI history have now all been made in that period.
This performance wasn’t the most impressive batting effort England have managed across the last four years, and perhaps it is more remarkable for the way this has become the norm for this team. They scored 142 runs in the last 10 overs of this match, and this was despite them having a collapse in the middle of that spell where they lost four wickets for 25 runs. Even if wickets fall, if this England team feels it has the batting resources to just keep coming at teams, it does.
This total of nearly 400 was not all crashing shotmaking though. This 150-run victory was cleverly thought out and perfectly delivered. Afghanistan may well be the weakest team in this competition, but England went into this with a game plan that showed their opponents some respect.
The first 10 overs brought England just 46 runs as they assessed conditions and made sure that a platform has been set. At this World Cup, we have seen just how important it is to keep wickets in hand and go big in the latter stages. If you have resources left, you can score at 10 an over with relative ease, and as England showed here, getting close to 15 an over is possible.
Sure, this was a flat pitch. Yes, this was a weak team, but the heights to which England have taken batting in recent years is quite remarkable. They are scoring at seven runs an over in this World Cup; no team is close to that rate. They have batted five times and made more than 300 in four of those. The only time they didn’t reach 300 was when they were chasing 213 to win against the West Indies, a total they reached with eight wickets and 16.5 overs to spare.
The two highest innings totals of the World Cup so far have been made by England, the 386/6 they made against Bangladesh and the 397/6 they made against Afghanistan in this match. There was the talk of teams passing 500 in this tournament, that seems unlikely now, but if any team is going to get into the high 400s in this World Cup, it is going to be England.
It was perhaps an unlikely destroyer of bowlers on Tuesday. Eoin Morgan is no slouch, but he isn’t someone you would think would score 17 sixes in an innings and make a hundred from 57 balls. He brutalised the best leg-spinner in the world. Rashid Khan’s bowling is ranked third in the world in ODIs; he was smashed for the worst figures ever at a World Cup, 110/0 from nine overs. If he had completed his whole spell, he would have beaten Mick Lewis’s worst ever ODI returns of 0/113.
England’s next match comes against Sri Lanka, the second-lowest ranked team in this tournament after Afghanistan. If they bat first against them, and if they come off as they have in this event so far, it could well be then that they get past 400 for the first time at this tournament.
Of course, it might not happen. There is still that sneaking doubt that this team, even as good as they are, can stuff this up. They were under-par against Pakistan and lost, they can do that again. But even in that game, they entertained with the bat. Even if they don’t make it all the way in this event, at least we can be sure of being entertained with their batting in the meantime.