This England team had some serious pressure on them going into their third match of the World Cup. They had started the tournament well enough, a facile victory against South Africa seemed to suggest their tags of favourites was well earned. Then they stuffed up against Pakistan. They fielded terribly and bowled without penetration as they conceded a total that even their ridiculously good batting line up couldn’t chase.
So, they were taking on Bangladesh in Cardiff needing to bounce back after a defeat that would have seriously damaged the confidence of England teams in the past. They lost the toss and were put into bat on a Cardiff pitch that looked green and could potentially offer some assistance to the Bangladesh seamers.
Bangladesh started well with the ball. Mashrafe Mortaza and Shakib al Hasan kept things tight. England limped to 15/0 from five overs. This was a different England. It wasn’t about crashing the ball about from ball one, it was taking their time to get themselves set. This pitch was one that 15-20 balls of circumspection was needed before you could start taking liberties.
Then, with 30 balls of the innings gone, a switch was flicked. Roy and Bairstow changed gears and put their foot down. Roy was on 12 from 17 balls at the end of the fifth over, he brought up his fifty 21 balls later. Overs 6-10 brought England 52 runs. The contrast between the two halves of the opening Powerplay could not have been starker, and it says a great deal about this England team’s ability to learn. They went on to make 386/6, their highest score in any World Cup match and the best total ever made at Cardiff's Sophia Gardens. This England team does not let a setback like the defeat to Pakistan impact on their thinking in the next game.
After Jofra Archer was bashed around for 0/79 off his 10 overs against Pakistan, England captain Eoin Morgan said that he needed to use this as a learning experience. Perhaps the England top order have finally started to learn from their own past failings. Rather than not taking time to assess conditions and backing themselves to catch up, they have, at times, been guilty of only having one pace — that of an all-out attack. This Cardiff innings showed that England can reach towards 400 without swinging for the fences from ball one. The idea of this England batting line-up adding nuance to their arsenal is a mouth-watering prospect as this tournament progresses.
Roy’s hundred was the highlight; he got out for 153 from 121 balls, going for his fourth six in four balls when he was caught at mid-off. There were 15 overs to go when he got out. He could have milked the bowling for the rest of the innings and reached 200, but by the stage of the innings that got out, the time for looking for ones and twos was long gone. The ball was there to be hit, he just didn’t hit it well enough. This England side's wait for an ODI double ton goes on, surely it won’t be a long one.
While the power of England’s batting was there for all to see, perhaps the most exciting part of their efforts was the bowling of Archer. He had certainly turned things around after an off day against Pakistan. At the post-match press conference Shakib al Hasan, a centurion in this match in a losing cause, said that Archer and Mark Wood were the fastest bowlers in this World Cup, and of the two it was the former who was the most frightening.
He did not concede a run until the 13th ball of his spell. By then he had already topped 150kph and clipped the off stump of Soumya Sarkar with such force that the ball cleared the boundary behind the batsman on the full. It is not often you see the stumps hitting the ball for six!
Archer’s opening spell was 5-2-14-1. Bangladesh were 48/1 after 10 overs. Not a disastrous start, but the required rate was already the best part of 8.5 an over. Bangladesh weren’t scoring 387 runs to win, England just needed to be clinical to finish them off. Shakib made a brilliant hundred, but England did just that. A 106-run win was just about as comprehensive as things get.
England move on from this game to take on West Indies in Southampton. Just as with every other game in this tournament, they will go into that match as the favourites. A win there and they are halfway towards making the semi-finals with five matches still to play. If they can combine their undoubted skill with the intelligent cricket they played in Cardiff they will be close to unstoppable.