Cricket Comment: Underdog status in England’s favour

 
Chris Tremlett
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Jos Buttler has the record for the fastest one-day century by an English batsman, 61 balls
Our new columnist on the chances of England upsetting the odds and lifting their first World Cup.
England are unlikely to win the World Cup but you just never know. They are certainly going in the right direction and the chances of success are a lot higher than they were a couple of months ago.
England have nothing to lose and that mindset can be a dangerous weapon. Look at New Zealand and how they have done in previous World Cups; they always seem to be there or thereabouts.
The Black Caps always strike me as the sort of team that go in with a ‘we’re not expecting to win’ attitude but fight all the way. They don’t seem to think too much about it or put added pressure on themselves. If England can go in with the mindset of feeling relaxed and not letting the occasion get to them it can only be an advantage.
I think the expectation of the nation is for England not to get anywhere near the final but adopting an attitude of having nothing to lose could potentially prove beneficial.
Any team that gets through to the knockout rounds has always got a chance but England have got to do themselves as many favours as they can in the group stage. I was involved in the last World Cup in 2011 and we lost to Bangladesh and Ireland in the group phase and we really did make it hard for ourselves. We had to squeeze through the group and then face a pretty difficult quarter-final against Sri Lanka in their home conditions. That was always going to be a tough one to win and we duly lost by 10 wickets in Colombo.
Momentum is key and if you can start to build it by winning games early on and then finish in a high group position, you never know, one of the minor teams may make it through and you would always prefer to play against that sort of opposition than an Australia or South Africa. The easier England can make it for themselves in the group, ahead of the quarter final, the more advantageous it will be.

GENERATIONS

For a long time England threw Test players into the one-day arena. Generally, the Test players are the best all-round players but the one-day game has changed a lot in the last few years.
Young players are brought up with a different mindset. They are encouraged to hit every other ball for four whereas players from previous generations were not.
That philosophy has had a massive impact in limited-overs cricket and England were stuck in their ways. For many years, 250 seemed to be an average score but in this day and age that’s nowhere near good enough; 300 is the norm and rarely do England get to 300.
But I do think they’re finally starting to realise that the top three, for instance, need to score heavily in the power-play. Opener Moeen Ali has come in and can hit the ball hard, Ian Bell has shown he can play that role. You need some big-hitters to rival the likes of Aaron Finch and David Warner for Australia and to get the innings going at the start so it does not get bogged down.
If that is achieved the platform is then set for guys like Jos Buttler to come in towards the back end of the innings and show their match-winning quality.
So from that perspective England are definitely going in a better direction now than they were a couple of months ago.
It was the right time for Alastair Cook to be moved aside, and Eoin Morgan was the only real choice to take over. Alastair was trying his hardest but it didn’t quite work for him in the one-day format.
The balance of the side, with him not there, has also improved which means England have a much better chance of making an impact at the World Cup.

EXCITING

Having Jimmy Anderson back in the side is a big plus. The bowling unit is pretty exciting and Chris Woakes has stepped up massively in the last six months or so.
The only note of caution is England do have a few guys who bowl in a similar way and with a similar pace. They look as though they might be missing a bit of variety. There is no Lasith Malinga, for instance, with his sheer pace or any mystery spinners, but that is not to say they are not a pretty solid side.
The middle order is a plus point in their armoury. Morgan is struggling a little bit for form, exemplified by him only scoring two runs in his last four innings, but he and Buttler are really exciting players on their day.
But the time has come to show that talent on the World Cup stage, starting with the clash against Australia in Melbourne on Saturday. The future looks bright, however unlikely England’s chances of winning the tournament.

CRICKET WORLD CUP: TEAM BY TEAM GUIDE FIXTURES

POOL A

Afghanistan
■ Captain: Mohammad Nabi
■ ICC Ranking: 11
■ 2011 World Cup: N/A
Australia
■ Captain: Michael Clarke
■ ICC Ranking: 1
■ 2011 World Cup: Quarter-final
Bangladesh
■ Captain: Mashrafe Mortaza
■ ICC Ranking: 9
■ 2011 World Cup: Group stage
England
■ Captain: Eoin Morgan
■ ICC Ranking: 5
■ 2011 World Cup: Quarter-final
New Zealand
■ Captain: Brendon McCullum
■ ICC Ranking: 6
■ 2011 World Cup: Semi-final
Scotland
■ Captain: Preston Mommsen
■ ICC Ranking: N/A
■ 2011 World Cup: N/A
Sri Lanka
■ Captain: Angelo Matthews
■ ICC Ranking: 4
■ 2011 World Cup: Runners-up

POOL B

India
■ Captain: Mahendra Singh Dhoni
■ ICC Ranking: 2
■ 2011 World Cup: Winners
Ireland
■ Captain: Will Porterfield
■ ICC Ranking: 12
■ 2011 World Cup: Group stage
Pakistan
■ Captain: Misbah ul-Haq
■ ICC Ranking: 7
■ 2011 World Cup: Group stage
South Africa
■ Captain: AB de Villiers
■ ICC Ranking: 3
■ 2011 World Cup: Quarter-final
United Arab Emirates
■ Captain: Mohammed Tauqir
■ ICC Ranking: N/A
■ 2011 World Cup: N/A
West Indies
■ Captain: Jason Holder
■ ICC Ranking: 8
■ 2011 World Cup: Quarter-final
Zimbabwe
■ Captain: Elton Chigumbura
■ ICC Ranking: 10
■ 2011 World Cup: Group stage

FIXTURES

■ Saturday 14 February Australia v England, Melbourne
■ Friday 20 February, New Zealand v England, Wellington
■ Monday 23 February, England v Scotland, Christchurch
■ Sunday 1 March, England v Sri Lanka, Wellington
■ Monday 9 March, Bangladesh v England, Adelaide
■ Friday 13 March, Afghanistan v England, Sydney
■ Quarter-finals to be held on 18, 19, 20 and 21 March
■ Semi-finals to be held on 24 and 26 March
■ Final to be held on 29 March in Sydney

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