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England are worth watching

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England_ODI_CricketThe word on the street is that England in colours are worth watching again. After the retirement of Flintoff and Collingwood and the controversial Kevin Pietersen debacle, England lost the way in One dayers, culminating in their failure to go beyond the group stage in the 2015 World Cup after losing to Bangladesh. But after that England have slowly regrouped and reshaped themselves into one of the most impressive and fearsome one day sides currently playing. 

The team appears eager to entertain. Those who hold it dear are excited. Many more are taking notice. Under the captaincy of Eoin Morgan, England have moved away from their conservative approach and opted for a more valiant and attacking avatar.

At the time of the current edition of the Champions Trophy, England are the only team apart from Bangladesh who have never won a global ODI trophy. They have reached the finals of three World Cups (1979, 1987 and 1992) and two previous Champions Trophys (2004 and 2013) but have always finished runners-up. With their powerful batting line-up and good pace attack, this is a great opportunity to erase that glitch in their record. 

 

England has a powerful batting side which bats deep till number 9 or 10. Their record for the last year tells the whole story. They have won the 6 out of the last 7 ODI series, including their recently concluded series against South Africa. Their only loss came against India in early 2017. 

In the 23* matches of these 7 series, England crossed the 300 mark on 12 occasions. Their record is even more impressive while batting first. England batted first 12 times and scored over 300 on 10 occasions. The two times they failed to reach 300 while batting first was against West Indies in North Sound when they reached 296/6 and missed the 300 score by the margin of a boundary, and in their recent collapse in the final match against South Africa at Lord’s.

Out of these 23 games, England has won 17 matches and lost only 5 matches: 2 against India in the series loss and 1 each against Bangladesh, Pakistan and South Africa. Interestingly, one match against SL was a tie. In the last one year, England’s win percentage* of 73.91 is the best among all the teams competing in the tournament. Their batsmen scored heavily in each game and their scoring rate of 6.27 was easily the highest among all the teams.

The seeds of this transformation were sown after a shocking performance at 2015 World Cup. When the embarrassment of losing a do-or-die match to Bangladesh was too much to bear, even the most conservative corners of the English game accepted that a change of attitude to one-day cricket was not only necessary but inevitable.

England appointed Andrew Strauss as the Director of Cricket and he made strong decisions about personnel and gave clarity where confusion had reigned. Despite the World Cup debacle, he confirmed that Eoin Morgan would stay on as Limited Overs captain and endorsed Morgan’s fearless and attacking approach towards the game. It encouraged a sense of adventure and demanded a more dynamic and audacious approach. 

 

Winning is almost as dependent on attitude and approach as on talent. Cricket requires courage, character, expression, intelligence and skills. Suddenly the players let their minds run free, and from this their spirit came alive. Players understood their roles and responsibilities and approached towards the game in a different, not-so-England manner. 

The first glimpse of this new English avatar was seen in the series against New Zealand in 2015 when England finally won a series at home after 5 consecutive series losses. England scored at a rate of 7.69 runs per over in the series and gave a message to the world that England are ready to enter a new era. 

Since then, England never looked back. They have a formidable opening pair in the form of Alex Hales and Jason Roy. Root is dependable and consistent across formats. Morgan can play defensively and attack as per the situation. England have a destructive wicketkeeper-batsmen in the form of Buttler who can destroy any attack and can change the course of the game single-handedly. Stokes and Ali are dependable all-rounders. Stokes proved his worth in the recently concluded IPL. In their home conditions, England bowling attack is above par and can compete any attack in the world. 

England's 50-over cricket has been on an upward trend now. They appear to be peaking just in time for the Champions Trophy, but they will need to ensure they don't succumb to stage fright in front of an expectant home audience.

*excluding matches that were rained out / had no result.

 

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