Four games played, three wins and a defeat to the mercurial Pakistan. So far so good for the pre-tournament favourites, very much on course for a semi-final spot now and then they’re just two matches away from the promised land of being the ODI World Champions. It all sounds so simple. But how good have England actually been in the Cricket World Cup 2019 in light of the expectations?
Cricket World Cup 2019: The Positives
A few weeks before the tournament began, he hadn’t even played an ODI. A few months before that and he wasn’t even eligible to play one. On the eve of the tournament the likes of Chris Woakes suggested it would not be fair morally (whatever that means) for him to be picked ahead of the players who had got them to Number 1 in the world.
Yet here we are, four games into England’s campaign and he’s not only England’s leading wicket-taker with nine but he’s right up there with the leading wicket-takers of the World Cup as a whole.
He’s bowled with pace, menace and aggression, yet also been able to ‘mix it up’ with subtle variations of pace and length. A real success story. They’ll need plenty more from him.
From among England’s star-studded batting line-up, Root is perhaps the most irreplaceable.
That’s because in the middle of all those dashers and six-hitters he’s the player who best executes the concept of building an innings. His crisp driving, cute cutting, rotation of strike and hard running have so far yielded 279 runs, more than any other England player and securing him a Top 5 place on the World Cup batting leaderboard, at the time of writing.
“Can you open against West Indies with Jason Roy injured please Joe? There’s a good lad.” Yeah, no problem. An unbeaten 100 followed, his second century in three matches. He’s now the only English batsman ever to have three World Cup centuries to his name.
In truth, he’s yet to face the best bowling attacks of the tournament. How he copes against them could make or break England’s campaign. But knowing what we know about Root and his famous temperament, he’s likely to be just fine.
The Other Bowlers
There’s no point Archer bowling like a deity if the others are letting the side down. But Mark Wood, Liam Plunkett and Ben Stokes have all played their part when it comes to seam and pace bowling. Those three have taken seven, four and five wickets respectively and just as crucially, have all gone for less than 5.2 an over. Chris Woakes has claimed four scalps but been expensive after going at 6.84 an over, though admittedly, he’s yet to have the chance of bowling in his favoured conditions.
Neither Eoin Morgan nor Jason Roy batted against the Windies. That’s because they both suffered injuries while fielding. Skipper Morgan had a back problem, while Roy had a far more worrying hamstring injury.
If they miss their next couple of matches, that’s no issue. England are in a strong position in terms of making the semis and could even afford to lose one of those matches without it being a problem.
It’s what comes after that which is cause for concern. Morgan is an excellent captain with a fine cricketing brain and whereas Jos Buttler is a steady deputy, it’s not quite the same. The Middlesex man is also one of ODI cricket’s most experienced middle-order batsmen. If he’s not there it’s either a case of just bringing in Moeen Ali to bat at four, or shuffle around the batting order, which isn’t ideal either. Players like Stokes and Buttler are accustomed to batting at five and six and may not relish the ‘promotion’.
By all accounts Roy’s injury is even more serious. Opening with James Vince in their next two matches is the obvious option and there’s nothing wrong with it but Vince is by no means in the same destructive class as Roy.
It all means that when the big semi-final comes against the likes of Australia or India, it would be a big handicap to go into battle without one of them and a huge one to play without the pair of them.
That Pakistan Defeat…
In the current format where the first stage is a round-robin everyone can afford to lose a couple of games. But it was the manner of that defeat to Pakistan that was an issue.
In the last year or so there’s been this theory that England can chase anything. Most of the time they can but chasing 330 plus involves getting off to a good start, maintaining a healthy run rate, not losing too many wickets and at least one player getting to 100. That’s a lot of ifs and though England have generally been good at chasing big scores, they can’t expect to pull it off every time.
In that match they conceded too many and left themselves too much to do with the bat.
The other issue happened before a ball had even bowled. Yes, England are a side suited to chasing but the best captains assess the conditions when deciding what to do rather than just doing what they generally like to do. They should have batted first that day. In the future, Morgan needs to make the right decision based on all the factors that day, not go in with a pre-determined plan.
One of the reasons England were so fancied going into the tournament was that in Adil Rashid they had the world’s top wicket-taker over the past four years. He’s been poor so far. 33 overs of leg spin have brought just two wickets and with an economy rate of 6.15, only Woakes has been more expensive from among the England bowlers. You’re not going to beat Virat Kohli and co when your main spinner is returning figures like that.
The Big Picture
Those who enjoy a bet on sports at Marathonbet will have taken note of the fact England are still favourites to win the tournament.
But like in a hand of poker, it’s not just about what cards you’re holding, it’s also about the cards everyone else is holding.
In other words: how are they playing in comparison to the competition?
Australia aren’t without their own problems with a suspect middle-order the biggest of them. But they’ve done their job so far, winning four and losing only to a thoroughly professional performance by India.
Speaking of which, Virat Kohli’s men are looking the real deal. Their top order has been just as impressive as England’s, the pacemen have been taking wickets and keeping the runs down and perhaps most crucially of all, they have in Yuzvendra Chahal something England don’t: a leg spinner in fine form. Assuming the weather improves and the wickets become drier, that could be the key difference between the sides when they meet.
So we’ll give England a 7/10 for their campaign so far, the key thing being that they have one foot in the semis. After all, you can’t win a World Cup without getting that far.
Are they playing well? Yes. Are they winning? Yes. Are their key players performing? Mostly yes.
But do they deserve to be the favourites at this stage? Well, that’s for you to decide.