In the lead up to the Cricket World Cup of 2015, Stuart Broad surmised that England would have to “have an absolute stinker” not to qualify for the knockout stages of the tournament. As things panned out, Broad was eerily spot on.
England withered during the chase of a reasonably moderate total of 275 against Bangladesh and were sent home packing. England's only successes in the first stage of the tournament came against Scotland and a consolation win over Afghanistan, with none against any of the Full Member nations.
They were routed by eventual champions Australia in their opening game by 111 runs, and by finalist New Zealand by eight wickets, and then by Sri Lanka by nine wickets. As stinkers go, that's as close to absolute as possible.
Since the heydays of 1980's and 1990's, England have not really focussed on ODI success and have been more than happy to spend their efforts and resources in to bolstering the Test side, which led to their winning the Ashes multiple times and even becoming the number one ranked Test side.
After England were thwarted by a bit of Wasim Akram magic at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the 1992 final, England did not feature in the semifinal of any of the subsequent six world cup tournaments, while every other “major” cricketing nation had at least one appearance in the final four in those years; that is twenty three years of ODI futility.
Thus, it was inevitable that heads would roll after another world cup from which England returned home empty handed, and Peter Moores' was the first in line. He even wrote himself a coaching epitaph of “we'll have to look at the data” when England fell short by 15 runs as Bangladeshi pacers put paid to any last gasp effort to sneak in to the quarterfinal.
The fortunes of the England ODI team has gone through a sea of change since March 2015 and even with most of the players from the humiliating defeat at the hands of Bangladesh still remaining, they appear to be a team completely transformed.
Moores has since been replaced by Trevor Bayliss who encourages a more open and free form of attack from a deep batting lineup that has not been associated with an England side in a long time, if at all ever.
As ridiculous as it was that Sunil Gavaskar's Test best of 236 stood for so long in a country blessed with talented batsmen till VVS Laxman eclipsed it in an once-in-a-lifetime innings in 2001, Robin Smith's ODI personal best of 167 stood as the ODI high water mark for England.
A rejuvenated Alex Hales breezed past it, finally, in blistering fashion scoring 171 in just 122 balls last summer against Pakistan. He is now partnered by Jason Roy at the top of the order who operates in only one gear, the fifth.
A middle order consisting of one of the best batsmen in the game today, with Joe Root, calm and experienced Eoin Morgan, the freaky duo of Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes, and the equally able Jonny Bairstow, (with Sam Billings waiting in the wings) is possibly the best in the world today.
It was no surprise then that this group of players would finally break the 400-runs threshold in June 2015, ironically against New Zealand whose aggressive brand of cricket the English skipper Morgan admitted his side was modelled upon.
While every other side in the world was bringing their experiences and attitudes from T20 to their ODI games, England were slow on the uptake, and were consistently conservative instead of pushing the boundaries of what was possible.
Once the English players were given the license to be innovative and aggressive, it was inevitable that this group of highly skilled players would take their team to places unexplored. Just like two London buses showing up one after another after having waited for an hour, England's foray in to the 400+ territory appeared soon after the first one, this time setting the highest ODI score ever (444), going 1 run better than Sri Lanka, against a hapless Pakistan in August 2016.
England have gone past 300 14 times since April 2015 (in 33 matches) whereas they accomplished that in 34 times in 643 ODIs prior.
England in 2016 easily dispatched Sri Lanka and Pakistan in bilateral ODIs at home, won in Bangladesh even while missing Hales and Morgan, and narrowly let slip a commanding position in South Africa.
Their 2016 record stands at: Played 15, won nine, lost four, tie/no result two. They will be taking on India in a three ODIs set riding high on their recent form and confidence while also being considered favourites for the Champions Trophy later this summer, after coming excruciatingly close in 2013.
The England side of the early 1990's were considered the best ODI side to represent England and the squad put together since the ignominious World Cup exit in March 2015 is already on the lips of England fans as the best ever, but they still have a glaring weakness.
While they possess one of the strongest, perhaps the strongest batting lineup, they still lack a “go to” gun fast bowler or an ace spinner, whom the skipper can call upon to provide a crucial breakthrough, or throw the ball to in the waning moments of a run defence.
As much as David Willey, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid and Liam Plunkett have done with the ball lately, they could not be considered, not yet anyway, as the stopper any ODI team that has visions of World cup hardware would want to have.
From recent memory, Zaheer Khan was it for India in 2011, and Mitchell Starc for Australia in 2015. But with 2017 Champions Trophy as well as the 2019 World Cup being held in their own backyard, the conditions could bridge that gap, and could see England finally lifting a trophy in an ICC 50-overs event.
However, even if they do not win either of these events, we are at least guaranteed that this England side will not go down wondering nor worry about the data, but play attractive, aggressive cricket that will be a wild departure from the side that was booted out of the 2015 World Cup.
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Updated Date: Jan 15, 2017 14:08:37 IST