England Favourites Ahead Of World Cup – Archer or Not

April 24, 2019

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Team England announced their provisional squad for the 2019 Cricket World Cup earlier this week, and the biggest talking point was the omission of Barbadian-born Jofra Archer.

Instead of picking him straight for the marquee event, the England and Wales Cricket Board have picked him for the series against Pakistan and Ireland in early May. With the provisional squad in no way binding – countries can change their squads up until May 22 – England can still see Archer participating for them in the World Cup.

As soon as the ECB removed their seven-year residency requirement for players born overseas to be eligible to play for the international team and brought it down to ICC’s four-year rule, Archer’s name was doing the rounds. That he would be eligible for England just ahead of the World Cup further intensified speculations, but instead of taking a drastic measure, the selectors seemed to have done the sensible thing and account for his displays at the international level before taking a call forward.

It, of course, would be harsh if indeed Archer is included in the final team at the expense of one of the players who has helped England become the best team in the world. Chris Woakes in a recent interview feels that his selection would not be fair, but also stated that it is the nature of the sport at the highest level.

“If he was to come in and someone was to miss out, it would be extremely unfortunate. It probably wouldn’t be fair, morally, but at the same time it’s the nature of the international sport,” Woakes told the BBC. However, if Archer, who can bowl at 145kmph consistently, can score crucial runs down the batting order, and is a live-wire in the field, is selected, he would be there on merit.

Favourites For A Reason

Away from Archer, the unit is as expected. Eoin Morgan, having led England from the disaster in the 2015 World Cup, will captain a side that start as Cricket World Cup betting favourites at 9/4 with BoyleSports.

Since the event Down Under four years ago, Morgan has been in fine form with the bat, and though there have been lean spells, his overall returns have been exceptional. He has made 2875 runs at an average of 45 with a strike-rate of 97. His five hundred’s are next only to Joe Root, while his 93 sixes are almost twice as many as the next English cricketer.

While Morgan will want to lead the team by example, it will boil down to the form that Joe Root is in during the World Cup. He recently crossed 5,000 ODI runs, and is on the brink of becoming the leading ODI run-scorer from England of all time. Since the mega-event in Australia and New Zealand last year, Root averages 59 and has scored 10 of his 14 tons in this period.

While Morgan and Root will hold the key in the middle-order, Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy will open the batting if Alex Hales (who has gone on an indefinite break from cricket after he was selected in the team) misses out. They have been putting rivals under serious pressure in the Powerplay overs, and with the management giving them the licence to attack, the duo have been responsible for handing their side with aggressive and impressive starts consistently.

Down the order, players like Jos Buttler, who carries a strike-rate of 118 and Moeen Ali have played a massive role in England setting scores close to 400 in the recent past. Ben Stokes has found consistency that goes with his batting power and skills, and with England having made six of the top seven totals in ODIs since the World Cup in 2015, including making more than 400 four times, the depth in the batting department can be gauged. With small boundaries and flat decks expected for the tournament, teams with a solid batting attack will hold the aces, and with the kind of firepower the Three Lions possess, it is tough to view anyone else as favourites.

Still Hit & Miss With The Ball

However, this is where the strengths can turn into a massive weakness. Having gotten so accustomed to flat pitches, this side often fails to adapt to tracks that are worn out, as did happen in the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy in 2017. Recently at St. Lucia, West Indies dismissed them for just 113 runs, but if the wicket plays as it promises, it would be a hard task to trump England.

While the batting is almost invincible, the bowling department might send across a few areas of concern. England have conceded 300 the maximum number of times in the last two years, and it is safe to say that the side relies on scoring one run more that their rivals rather than looking to defend totals. However, players like Liam Plunkett, Woakes, Mark Wood and Stokes have all pitched in when the team has asked them to, and have good seam bowling returns as well, but it is Adil Rashi who will hold the key especially in the middle overs.

The leg-spinner was not selected in the 2015 World Cup team but was brought back after a harsh winter for the side. Since then, Rashid has scalped 125 wickets – the most by any bowler in ODI cricket in this interim. His wicket-taking abilities has stalled the run-flow in the middle overs, and just like Root holds the key in the batting unit, Rashid is the crucial player for England in the bowling department.

As expected from a team that has been on a roll in this format recently, there are very few surprises. The only question to answer remains Hales’ participation and Archer’s selection, but other than that the team looks well-rounded and will walk into the World Cup firmly believing that they can return victorious this time around.

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Author: Sarah Waris

This postgraduate in English Literature from Kolkata in India has taken on the tough task of limiting the mystic world of cricket to a few hundred words. A firm believer that Kohli is beyond human, a wizard with the willow

Twitter @swaris16

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