ICC Cricket World Cup 2019: Pressure, what pressure? England's self-belief and mental strength propelled them to historic first title

  • Jigar Mehta
  • July 16th, 2019
  • 9:15:31 IST

"I've no questions of us performing under pressure:" Eoin Morgan after defeat to Sri Lanka in the 2019 World Cup.

Pressure was the buzzword as England's journey started to derail. The defeat against Sri Lanka was a shocker. The best batting line-up had botched up a straightforward 233-run chase. They had earlier fallen short against Pakistan at Trent Bridge chasing 349, by 14 runs.

Questions, unsurprisingly had started floating in. Are England feeling the pressure?

Eoin Morgan holds the trophy as he celebrates with Jos Buttler, center, and Jonny Bairstow after lifting the World Cup. AP

Eoin Morgan holds the trophy as he celebrates with Jos Buttler, center, and Jonny Bairstow after lifting the World Cup. AP

A defiant English captain played down pressure fears ahead of the game against Australia.

"The guys have performed under pressure for a long time," Morgan said. "They have performed as favourites in series, both home and away, for the last two years. I've no questions of us performing under pressure."

Morgan's authoritative reply provided a glimpse of the self-belief of this transformed English team.

Lord's beckoned. Another defeat followed, a thumping loss, again while chasing; against the old enemy, Australia.

The murmurs grew louder. They are surely wilting under pressure, aren't they? Do they have a plan B? Can they adapt to changing trends of the pitches? Aren't they flat-track bullies?

You are the home team. There are expectations. You are the best team in the world in the last four years. You are on the brink. One more loss and it could go into that 'uncontrollable' territory. The aggressive brand of cricket has come under immense criticism. This is the cricket that has given them their identity. This is the approach that has made them one of the most feared teams in world cricket. And now it's being questioned left, right and centre.

“England are a one-dimensional batting unit and don’t seem to have a plan B or C,” Geoffrey Boycott wrote in a column for The Telegraph after the Sri Lanka loss. “If they do have alternative plans, they do not execute them very well.

There is pressure, surely. The pressure of being the favourites. The pressure of being the hosts. The pressure of being the best team in the world. The pressure of expectations. The pressure of suffering an embarrassment.

Pressure. Pressure. Pressure.

It was their fielding that let them down against Pakistan. According to the captain, their batting veered away from the basics of their 'batting mantra'. “Not showing intent, building partnerships and doing it in our own way against Sri Lanka and Australia.” Against Australia, the bowlers also didn't hit the right (fuller) lengths when the conditions were conducive on a lively pitch.

For the first time since 2015, they have lost back to back matches ODI matches.

They still have their fate in their hands. Win two out of two and enter the semis. They haven't beaten India and New Zealand in World Cups in 27 years. Kevin Pietersen thought the England captain was scared of short deliveries. England are not panicking though. Champion teams have the habit of bringing out their best especially when their backs are against the wall.

This New England have inhabited those traits.

Morgan's reply when asked about Pietersen's comments is simple: "Really? Excellent. It didn't feel that way at all."

After all those doubts about England's approach, lack of plan B and adaptability, Stokes comes out and announces: This is our World Cup and we are not for one minute going to take a backward step.

They are not going to go away from the aggressive brand of cricket which gave this team an identity.

Oh, and what about the pressure?

"You talk about pressure. But pressure is a privilege sometimes. We're in a very privileged position to be in this situation," Buttler's mood ahead of the India game.

England stay true to their words and come out rampaging against India. They know the pitch at Edgbaston would get slower and the dimensions could be crucial. So they go on the attack early, demolish India's most lethal weapon — their spin twins, target the shorter boundaries and then choke the Indian batsmen with slower deliveries.

The return of Jason Roy from injury is a game changer, someone who epitomises England's fearless approach.

They take the momentum into Chester-le-Street and outclass New Zealand in a typical 'New England way'. They have found their mojo back. The fear factor is back. England are into the semis. Relief. Two more games to go. No one wants to play them in the semis. The Australia and India fans have their eyes glued on Australia vs South Africa, the final match of the league stage.

At the end of the game, Indian fans heave a sigh of relief as Australia fall short.

But wait. England have had the rub of the green their way. They have won two crucial tosses and batted first. The semi-final is a big pressure match against the old enemy. Lose the toss and it could be an altogether different game.

England are not 'scared of chasing', asserts coach Trevor Bayliss. “We are a different sort of animal compared to our last team”, announces pacer Liam Plunkett.

England lose the toss. Well, well. And are chasing. There you go, biggest fear and all that.

Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes belt out a lesson on how to learn, adapt and implement as they break Australia's backbone (top order, 3/14) from which they never recover. They correct the lines and lengths that had hurt them at Lord's against Australia earlier.

223 could be tricky. Just the other day India succumbed to pressure against New Zealand in chase of 240.

But pressure is a privilege for England. Remember?

That animal is unleashed at Edgbaston as Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow go berserk to give Australia the treatment they have been belting out to opposition teams over the years.

"We will stick to our mantra" is England's tag line right through.

Morgan and Stokes are those phlegmatic characters whose confidence and unwavering belief rub off on this team. Morgan was leading the side which had hit rock bottom four years ago Down Under after an embarrassing group stage exit.

"Tough times don't last but tough blokes do," Brendon McCullum had sent a message to his good friend.

The tough bloke didn't just last long, he led the way for a revolution. The white-ball revolution.

There is still one more hurdle to cross. Morgan urges his team to embrace the dream at Lord's.

The toss is lost. They are chasing in the high-pressure match. The bowling smarts again click to restrict New Zealand to 241. But these are the sort of totals the calculated Kiwis back themselves to defend.

The England openers have a rare off day. Their most dependable batsman struggles. The captain departs early. Suddenly they are 86/4.

This is the test of their mental strength.

Two of the most feared hitters in world cricket get together. They don't veer away from the aggressive approach but also add smarts to it. There are slogs and scoops as well.

"There is no one moment of celebration of achievement (for England). And that's what these players want, they feel they have achieved something significant in last four years but they want a moment for everyone to look at them and say "Ya, this is it, we've done it," Michael Atherton signifies the importance of the game on air.

The game takes a turn and then another and then another. Both sides are on an emotional roller-coaster.

Tie. Super Over.

Pressure. Pressure. Pressure.

No one is giving an inch. There is nothing to separate the two sides. Through the entire 100 overs, the two teams have believed. England have believed. New Zealand have believed.

It comes down to the last ball. 2 needed off 1 in the Super Over.

England have ridden their luck. But it's a game of nerves as well.

24-year-old World Cup debutant Archer keeps his so does Jason Roy and so does Buttler as they combine to produce the last-ball run out to give England cricket their greatest moment.

Match tied. Super Over tied. England win on boundaries.

How poetic for a team that didn't shy away from playing their own brand of cricket and winning four must-win games in a row playing fearless cricket.

England dreamt. England believed. England won.

And finally achieved that 'one moment of celebration of achievement.'

Did anyone whisper pressure?

For all the latest news, opinions and analysis from ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, click here

Updated Date: July 16, 2019 09:15:31 IST

Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.

also read

'Severly disappointed' PCB chief Ramiz Raja says Pakistan will look after their own interest
First Cricket News

'Severly disappointed' PCB chief Ramiz Raja says Pakistan will look after their own interest

“I am severely disappointed in England’s withdrawal but it was expected because this western bloc gets united unfortunately and tries to back each other,” Ramiz said in a video message.

IPL 2021: KKR a ‘very dangerous side with nothing to lose’, says Eoin Morgan
First Cricket News

IPL 2021: KKR a ‘very dangerous side with nothing to lose’, says Eoin Morgan

The two-time champions endured an underwhelming first half, losing five of their seven matches and are languishing at the seventh spot.

Security tightened for New Zealand's women cricketers in England after threatening email
First Cricket News

Security tightened for New Zealand's women cricketers in England after threatening email

"The ECB have received a threatening email relating to NZC. Although this did not specifically reference the White Ferns, it was treated seriously, investigated, and deemed not credible," the governing body said in a statement.