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England vs Afghanistan – A Pre Match Analysis

England along with India come into this year’s World Cup as one of the favourites to lift the title at the home of cricket. Paradoxically, the founders of the game have never won the coveted title.

This time though, they sit fourth on the table having lost one of four games, and possess the arsenal as well as the firepower to go one better and lift the title on their home turf. In this article, we will analyse the England team, who will be facing Bangladesh in their fifth match.

For most of the tournament’s 44-year history, the “Poms” (as they are called by their Australian rivals) have been useless. They last reached a final in 1992. At the previous tournament in 2015, the only teams they managed to beat were Scotland and Afghanistan, and were eliminated at the earliest opportunity.

But during the past four years England have focused on winning the coveted trophy which they have desired for so long.

Shortly after the 2015 debacle, the ECB appointed Trevor Bayliss, a head coach specialising in cricket’s short formats. Bayliss rebuilt the team around Eoin Morgan, its Irish-born captain and one of its most aggressive batsmen.

THE BATSMEN
One of the first changes to this improved England side has been the introduction of hard hitters who were previously considered too inconsistent. At the top of the order are Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy, who drifted around the edges of the England set-up before 2015, but have now matured into the fastest-scoring opening pair in ODI history.

One of the first changes to this improved England side has been the introduction of hard hitters who were previously considered too inconsistent. At the top of the order are Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy, who drifted around the edges of the England set-up before 2015, but have now matured into the fastest-scoring opening pair in ODI history.

Supporting them in the middle order is Ben Stokes, a gifted, yet controversial all-rounder who was omitted from the last World Cup squad after a poor run of form with the bat.

Alongside Morgan, the core of the middle order revolves around wicket-keeper Jos Buttler, one of cricket’s most innovative hitters, and Joe Root, the Test captain, who offers something of a cooler head. In the last four years, all three have scored their runs at least 10% more quickly than they did in the previous four years.

Where England once considered a total of 300 runs a good score, the team now looks for 350 or more. In fact they have scored 300 or more in 10 consecutive games. It was a measure of how eagerly the players bought into Bayliss’s explosive, attacking philosophy.

At the start of this tournament, England come in as the number-one ranking in ODI cricket and the world record for the highest score (481 against Australia last year). In 2019 so far they have scored boundaries 40% more frequently than the average ODI team.

But such aggression has a downside. Such aggressive batting carries considerable risk, because hitting with reckless abandon increases the odds of batsmen getting out in quick succession putting pressure on the ones below them.

However, England have enough capable sloggers in the team, including several bowlers, to get away with this perilous strategy most of the time. But occasionally it backfires spectacularly, with every single batsman getting himself out. In the last year England have endured the two biggest defeats in their history.

In October their total of 132 runs was 219 less than Sri Lanka managed in their innings, and in March the West Indies passed England’s score of 113 in just 12 overs and one ball.

So far, England have relied on Joe Root’s masterclass to lead the way with the bat. He is the leading run-scorer for his country with two hundreds already and his cool calm personality will be crucial to England’s success at this World Cup.

THE BOWLING ATTACK
The Achilles heel for England is a dearth of top-notch bowlers. Whereas the country has five of the world’s 20 highest-rated ODI players with the bat, it only has two of the top 20 with the ball: Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid. But although they both take a lot of wickets they also give away lots of runs.

Mark Wood is the other bowler who does bowl at a high pace, but his test form has not yet reflected in his ODI record. He still struggles at times with his line and length and has been a victim of inconsistency. He might get away with it against smaller sides, but his vulnerability will be exposed against better opposition like India or Australia.

In fact, the inability of the England bowlers to replicate the form of the batsmen have been so dire that the ECB has relaxed the eligibility criteria in order for England to select Jofra Archer, a Barbadian who has a British passport but has only lived in the country for three years. He bowls more quickly than any of England’s other options, and has honed his skills by playing in T20 leagues around the world. The hosts will need him to translate that success to ODIs if they are to win this tournament.

Liam Plunkett seems to be around forever, and finds his place in the side due to his ability to take wickets during the middle overs. He along with Adil Rashid and all-rounder Moeen Ali are burdened with the responsibility to keep on scalping wickets during the middle overs.

PREDICTIONS
One of England’s greatest strengths is their ability to bat deep. They end their batting with spinner Adil Rashid who has got two first class centuries to his name. If England can score big runs, then it will put fear in the minds of the other teams, knowing that they have to score a mammoth total.

My prediction is that England will reach the finals, but due to their lack of experience on how to win the big, crunch games, they will fall short of winning the World Cup.