At last. After so much heartbreak, England have their moment of redemption. For the first time England’s men have lifted the biggest trophy in cricket. For so long the whipping boys and laughing stock of World Cup tournaments, they won the biggest prize in the sport at Lord’s. It has been a long four years…
Adelaide, 9 March 2015. England lose to Bangladesh to crash out of the World Cup in the group stages. A team who did not really know what type of cricket they were supposed to play, and as a result played all their cricket badly, were horribly embarrassed. It was a greatest hits of English disasters during that tournament. Badly prepared, tactically naive, poorly set up.
Immediately after that terrible tournament England made a decision. They had a World Cup at home, and they were going to win it. Andrew Strauss was put in charge of England’s elite teams and he and Eoin Morgan made a plan. Trevor Bayliss was given the job as coach because he had white ball experience. Things were going to be different.
They set this tournament as their target. But targets are one thing. Winning is something different. But here we are. England, World Cup champions.
It wasn’t easy. Losses to Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia in the group stage made it hard on themselves. The final itself was a roller-coaster. A tied game and a tied super over. It couldn’t have been closer, and it was a remarkable game. England may have been fortunate at times, but sport has always had an element of luck. England, the number one ranked team going into this tournament, are deserving winners.
There are so many heroes for this World Cup. Before this edition no England batsman had made more than 500 runs in a World Cup. Now England have two with both Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow going past that landmark. Before this World Cup no England bowler had ever taken more than 16 wickets. Now England have two with both Jofra Archer and Mark Wood going past this total.
Five batsmen made seven hundreds across their 11 matches, with Root and Bairstow getting two each. England passed 300 six times in the tournament. Contrast that with the 2015 edition where they managed that just twice. In the final the man of the match was Ben Stokes, a brilliant innings that saw England draw level in both the match and the super-over. He has become the cricketer so many hoped he would be.
Jofra Archer bowled five overs at the death for just 21 runs and then successfully defended 16 off the Super Over. He finishes the World Cup with 20 wickets with his stock rising even higher. He will be an England all-time great.
But one player has done as much for England as any other to give them their first men’s World Cup and has rarely been mentioned - Liam Plunkett.
There are three England bowlers with more wickets than Plunkett, but no one dismissed more top order players. The list of players who Plunkett dismissed is ridiculous. Hashim Amla. Quinton de Kock, Mushfiqur Rahim, Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson, Henry Nichols and Jimmy Neesham. There are no bunnies in there. That is all top-order class acts.
There are a number of statistics and facts that will be poured over in the coming days, but the only three games England lost in this World Cup were the ones were Plunkett did not play should stand out. Every time he has been in England’s team they have been the victors.
On Sunday, he put in a spell of four overs for seven runs picking up two wickets. In the middle overs. The time when it is supposed to be the most difficult to pick up wickets. Despite all the talk of England winning the World Cup on the basis of their batting, Plunkett bowling his cross-seamers and slower balls have played such a huge part in their success.
But even picking out Plunkett for praise, despite the fact that he is so deserving of it, seems wrong, While Adil Rashid didn’t have a great World Cup but he played his part. Chris Woakes has fewer wickets than Archer and Wood but he has been vital to their success. Every member of this squad, and even players like Alex Hales who aren’t part of it, have been part of this team’s remarkable turnaround.
But all of this, the runs, the wins, the close run things in the last two ICC events. It all stems from Andrew Strauss and Eoin Morgan deciding that England would be good at white ball cricket. Sure, the players have been there for them to make it happen. But this was a dream four years ago, and a reality today. Without those men willing to try and make this a reality England would not be champions of the world.
It will take a while for this to all sink in. The word redemption will be used more than any other. But this likeable England team who play wonderfully exciting cricket have achieved what they set out to achieve.