Pool A: England face tough task to end World Cup jinx
England have never won the World Cup, despite hosting four tournaments, including the first three editions, while it is nearly 25 years since they last appeared in a final.
They certainly won’t be among the favourites in Australia and New Zealand, where they will have to conquer longstanding problems of a lack of penetration with the ball and an inability to up the run-rate in the final stages of an innings if they are to beat the world’s top one-day sides repeatedly.
But thus far England’s decision to ditch Test captain Alastair Cook, who had scored just one fifty in his last 22 one-day innings, from the World Cup squad on the eve of the team’s departure for Australia, and replace him as skipper with Eoin Morgan, appears to be working out.
Ian Bell, who made a superb 141 in a three-wicket defeat by Australia in Hobart last week, and Moeen Ali have formed a sound opening partnership in Cook’s absence.
Meanwhile the new captain neatly evaded a verbal bouncer from Kevin Pietersen when the axed England batsman — playing in Australia’s domestic Big Bash Twenty20 tournament — said Morgan would “love to have me in the England team”.
But if Pietersen’s comments about England have a certain predictable quality, recent revelations that Morgan had been the subject of a blackmail attempt by the current partner of his former girlfriend were bizarre.
The England and Wales Cricket Board following talks with British police, contacted the potential blackmailer, who they said had “apologised”, with ECB managing director Paul Downton insisting the issue had been “brought to a swift conclusion”.
Quite what it did for Morgan’s peace of mind is another matter, with the former Ireland batsman insisting it had no bearing on his duck in Hobart.
On the field, it appears England are content to keep the big-hitting Alex Hales in reserve for the time being.
With Bell and Ali putting on 113 for the first wicket in 18 overs in Hobart, before Joe Root helped Bell add 121 in 19 for the third wicket, the top order looks in reasonable shape.
However, the final 10 overs yielded only 59 runs and it was in this instance that Pietersen’s absence left some England fans thinking of what might have been.
“We played good cricket in stages…the last 10 overs let us down a little bit,” said Morgan afterwards in words that could be applied to so many of England’s one-day performances.
England’s attack lacks extreme speed or sharp spin, although fast bowler Steven Finn showed signs of a return to form with five wickets in the recent Tri-Series win over world champions India.
But that England were unable to defend a total of over 300 against Australia in Hobart was a concern, especially as senior pacemen James Anderson and Stuart Broad, both returning from injury, had a combined return of none for 117 in 19 overs.
Squad: Eoin Morgan (capt), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Steven Finn, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Joe Root, James Taylor, James Tredwell, Chris Woakes
Coach: Peter Moores
Fixtures - Pool A:
Feb 14: Australia, Melbourne
Feb 20: New Zealand, Wellington
Feb 23: Scotland, Christchurch
Mar 01: Sri Lanka, Wellington
Mar 09: Bangladesh, Adelaide
Mar 13: Afghanistan, Sydney
World Cup record:
1999: Pool stage
2003: Pool stage
2007: Super Eights
Early indications from the Tri-Series are that England can make enough runs to at least keep them competitive with the world's best one-day sides. What is likely to decide the success of a quest for a first World Cup title is their ability to restrict teams with the ball.
James Anderson, who burst on the international scene at the 2003 World Cup, has long been the leader of England's attack and if opposing teams 'collar' the 32-year-old Lancashire swing bowler then Eoin Morgan's men face a tough time in the field.
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