England cricket: a preview of their World Cup squad, tactics and chances

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Rather surprisingly for a team who are reigning champions, England have played much less ODI cricket than one would expect over the last 4 years. Instead, it has taken a back seat to Test cricket, largely due to the emergence of every English cricket fan’s favourite word “Bazball”.  Also, shorter formats have seen an endless sprouting of franchise competitions, such as The Hundred and the IPL, which take up large chunks of the cricketing calendar.

Furthermore, ODI series results have been a mixed bag with comprehensive thumpings of lower-ranked teams, notably the Netherlands, feebly papering over losses to higher-ranked teams, such as last summer’s defeat at home to India and this year’s loss away to South Africa.

As a consequence, it is hard to get an idea of how good England are and how they are going to play heading into this year’s World Cup in India. They come in as the 5th ranked ODI team according to the ICC due to their results and lack of games, which would infer they are not coming in as favourites.  However, they are also World Champions in both white-ball formats and will come in with pressure and expectancy to defend their title.

The squad and tactics

Much of the old guard has remained from Eion Morgan’s all-conquering team of 2019. Following Ben Stokes’ unretirement, 7 of the 11 players who started that final in 2019 find themselves in the team once again. Eion Morgan and Liam Plunkett are retired whilst Jofra Archer is injured and Jason Roy was dropped in favour of Harry Brook.

7 of the 11 players who started in that final in 2019 find themselves in the team once again

This would suggest that they are likely to play similarly to how they did 4 years ago: attacking in the power play, scoring expeditiously in the middle overs and then letting “power hitters” such as Buttler and Livingstone smack it in the final overs. This tactic worked for them in 2019 and has since been adopted by other teams such as Australia, hinting towards its effectiveness as an ODI tactic.

England have been by far one of the best teams in the middle overs (overs 10-40) this World Cup cycle, scoring at a rate of 6.15 an over and averaging 40+; the highest by any team since 2022. This is where England will look to take the game away from teams and build big scores, which becomes more important with England’s weak bowling attack. A likely three-four-five of Root, Stokes and Buttler should have England fans salivating.

As mentioned previously, England’s bowling is their biggest weakness going into this tournament, especially with the loss of Jofra Archer (although we all know a well-timed injury will happen enabling him to come back into the team when fit). England’s spinners have had the worst economy and their seamers the fourth-worst average since 2022 out of the world’s top 13 teams.

It is worth saying that this could be attributed to the regular rotation of seamers and spinners, meaning that the strongest players aren’t playing week-in-week-out and thus the stats are slightly inflated by inexperienced players. However, it is safe to say England batters are more likely to win England the game as opposed to the bowlers.

It is safe to say batters are more likely to win England the game as opposed to the bowlers

Preferred Lineup

Jonny Bairstow:

Arguably running off the fumes of his exceptional 2022 test summer and coming off a pretty poor 2023 ODI summer in which his highest score was 13; he makes it by default though, as one of the two proven openers on the team.

Dawid Malan:

Don’t let his form in The Hundred fool you, Malan is the in-form player in England’s team. Coming off a 96 and a 127 in England’s recent series against New Zealand, as well as scoring 5 centuries in 15 innings since 2022, Malan will be a key player this tournament for England.

Joe Root:

Having expanded his repertoire with more attacking shots, including his beloved reverse scoop shots, he will be important in England’s middle overs. However, he also doesn’t come in on a great run of form, having asked to stay back for the Ireland series to regain it, but he’s too experienced for that to last.

Ben Stokes:

The rust from his retirement, albeit short-lived, was well and truly shaken off with his score of 182 against New Zealand (an England Men’s record). Don’t be surprised when he pulls off another heroic innings to win England a game.

Jos Buttler:

Undeniably England’s best white-ball batter and their Captain, he will be England’s other key player in the tournament.

Liam Livingstone:

The idea of Livingstone is tantalising: someone who can hit huge sixes and bowl spin, but this idea regularly falls flat on its face and he can be inconsistent. He makes it in place of Brook due to his part-time bowling and match experience.

Moeen Ali:

England’s vice-captain, his role is similar to that of Livingstone’s in this side, although he should take a few more wickets as a more experienced bowler.

Sam Curran:

His IPL campaign this year was disappointing considering his price-tag but he has played well in the New Zealand series and should keep the run-rate down.

Chris Woakes :

Has always been great for England in ODIs. I expect him to bowl at the death and be England’s leading wicket-taker.

Adil Rashid:

England’s leading wicket-taker in ODIs in the last four years, his bowling is needed in Indian conditions and to take wickets in the middle overs.

Mark Wood:

There is no substitute for his pace, which will be important to take wickets in Indian conditions.

Prediction

I do think England will make it to at least the semi-finals but a title defence is likely off the cards with an at-home India side who, coming off a rampant display in the recent Asia Cup Final, are my prediction to win the tournament.

(All figures quoted are sourced from espncricinfo.com)

Image: www.davidmolloyphotography.com via Flickr

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