I AM not sure either Eoin Morgan or coach Trevor Bayliss could have hoped for a much better start to England’s World Cup campaign.
In what looked like a potentially tricky opener on paper, the pre-tournament favourites brushed aside South Africa with consummate ease, confirming that they are the side to beat in the tournament.
Despite losing Jonny Bairstow to just the second delivery of the match, England amassed 311-8, with Morgan, Jason Roy, Joe Root and Ben Stokes all passing 50.
It was a score that looked about par, given the flatness of The Oval pitch, but in truth, the Proteas were never really in the hunt and were eventually bowled out for 207.
Bar Chris Woakes, all of England’s bowlers shared the wickets, with new boy Jofra Archer’s pace and hostility causing the South African batsman plenty of problems.
It was a fine team performance, but the champagne moment was undoubtedly Stokes' Superman-like catch to dismiss Andile Phehlukwayo.
Having seemingly misjudged the flight of the ball on the mid-wicket boundary, the all-rounder somehow managed to manipulate his body to pluck the ball one-handed out of the sky.
There have been some fantastic catches in cricketing history, but I’m not sure there have been any better than that one.
In stark contrast, their opponents at Trent Bridge today, Pakistan, couldn’t have started the tournament in a worse way.
An abject batting performance against the West Indies saw them skittled out for just 105, a score that the Windies batsman took just 13.4 overs to knock off.
Having won the Champions Trophy in England back in 2017, many saw Pakistan as interesting outsiders for the biggest prize in world cricket, but the manner of that opening defeat must have sent out alarm bells to coach Mickey Arthur and his team.
Make no mistake though, there is plenty of talent in this team.
In the classy Babar Azam and talented Fakhar Zaman they have two batsmen ranked in the top-10 in the world rankings, while Imad Wasim is currently the third best all-rounder.
Their Achilles Heel appears to be their bowling, with no bowler in the top-25 in the rankings, though that Champions Trophy victory showed their liking to English conditions and Mohammed Amir did look closer to his old self last Friday.
That defeat was their 11th straight loss in ODI cricket and that sort of run is damaging for both a team’s confidence and morale, so taking on this talented England side, having lost 4-0 to them recently, looks an uphill battle.
Sporting Index unsurprisingly make the Three Lions the very strong favourites.
In their 100-50-0 Index, the sell price is set at 78, while the buy price is 84, meaning an England victory will win you 16 times your stake.
Based on both their opening matches, it’s not hard to see why England are so short and it would take a brave man to bet against them here.
There isn’t much value in backing them though and instead I’m going to chance buying England at 83 on Sporting’s 50-ups market in the hope that they bat first.
This is a prediction on the aggregate total of runs over 50 for England and at a ground where they have scored over 400 twice in recent years, I fancy their top-order to cash in again.
Buy England team 50-ups 83 (Sporting Index)