It has been a year and a half since England crashed out of the 2015 Cricket World Cup in the group stages of the tournament. A year and a half since questions were raised as to the state of English limited overs cricket, and just why it seemed to lag so far behind the rest of the world. It was a low point which stemmed from a deeply ingrained, outdated approach to the 50 over format that, if left unchanged, would hinder the national team’s progression on the world stage.
The turning point for England, the first indication that the approach that had been holding them back for so long had been shed, was their first ODI following their World Cup defeat. On Tuesday 9th June 2015, England took on New Zealand at Edgbaston, their powerful batting display and crushing victory showing their arrival to cricket’s modern batting era and silencing their critics. With a team-sheet that boasted a wealth of batting talent and depth, England posted their highest ever ODI score of 408, with power-hitting Jos Buttler and England’s star batsman across the formats Joe Root posting quick-fire hundreds to form the basis of their innings. Fifties from both spinner Adil Rashid and captain Eoin Morgan aided England’s historic innings which left fans astounded and the tourists demoralised. The bowling performance backed up the host’s batting, dismissing their opponents in just 31 overs, Steven Finn and Rashid taking four wickets each and sentencing New Zealand to a 210 run defeat.
In terms of public perspective, that game can be considered as one of the most significant points in England’s One-Day transformation. It was at this point that England proved their ability to both post and defend a high total against a formidable limited overs side. However, what should not be underestimated is the preparation taken to reach this point.
Just how did England overcome their World Cup demons?
A complete re-haul in personnel and a dramatic change in attitude must be accredited to the side’s change in fortunes. Whilst there is no denying that Peter Moores is an excellent coach, the experience and the mind-set of his successors Trevor Bayliss and assistant coach Paul Farbrace were perhaps more suited to the direction in which English cricket wanted and needed to go. With a wealth of experience in the Big Bash and the IPL, Bayliss had been in the midst of the development of the shorter format of the game and, on his appointment as England’s coach, was willing to allow the aggressive brand of cricket which has since been associated with this team. So too must it be acknowledged the captain’s mindset and ability to ‘practice what you preach’.
Thrown into captaincy in the most difficult of positions just months before the 2015 World Cup, Morgan was the right man to lead the national side, but was not given the right conditions in which to do so. The restrictions which had been placed on players such as Morgan forced them to abandon their natural game in favour of a ‘safer’, slower paced and much more traditional approach to limited overs cricket.
With those restrictions seemingly shed, a more natural and aggressive approach could be used, but for the rest of his team to follow suit, it was Morgan and his senior players that would have to put those dressing room words into action on the field.
This notion of ‘no fear’ cricket embraced by both backroom staff and players alike is the most prominent feature of the new look and something that goes so far beyond that game on the 9th June at Edgbaston. It is the reason that England continue to excel in limited overs cricket. The reason that they made it to the finals of the 2016 ICC World Cup and the reason they’ve gone from World Cup failure to breaking records in the very same format.
England’s ODI series against Pakistan stands testament to just how far they’ve come, with their total of 444-3, the highest total ever posted in One Day International cricket. Their ability to bat from top to tail and the fact that every player has taken his opportunity to perform on the world stage stands testament to the strength and depth English cricket now has in limited overs cricket.
This is perhaps the most pleasing aspect of England’s transformation in the shorter format of the game and holds them in good stead for a busy schedule that looms in the coming year. If England continue to develop at the rate they have over the past 18 months, if they continue to play the cricket that has made them a delight to watch, then it is only a matter of time before they win those much sought after titles on the world stage.