For the first time in England’s mostly underwhelming history as far as the limited-over game is concerned, there’s a feel-good factor about the team. Never has there been such an air of domination, such belief that something great can be accomplished, accompanied any of England’s recent white-ball squads, when going into a major ICC tournament, let alone being the favourites.
While there’s no doubt about the previously unthought of heights that Eoin Morgan and Trevor Bayliss have taken this team to, it’s important to stay grounded and keep in mind that nothing has been won as yet, and that a lot can be won if they keep going the way they are. To begin with, England have a major test of class as they head into a defining series against South Africa, arguably the best in the world themselves.
For all of England’s recent success, the fact that they failed to beat South Africa in a very closely fought ODI series back in 2016 will be on their mind. Having led the series 2-0, a 3-2 defeat not only highlighted the scope for improvement but also a weakness in mentality, something that was further visible in the T20 World Cup final.
One would expect England to have learned their lessons during this time. There’s no questioning this side, not on paper at least; however, nothing proves your credentials more than the on-field performances and that’s what England have to do now.
They are up against the the cricketing world’s Galacticos in AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock and Kagiso Rabada-like players, getting the perfect occasion to send a message early on: “We are the favourites and the Champions Trophy is ours to win”.
The Playing XI
The biggest conundrum facing England is how to fit Jonny Bairstow into the side? Every time the Yorkshireman plays, he makes it even tougher for Bayliss to drop him, although that’s what he has had to do. The same can be said of Moeen Ali, who is not as consistent but an asset to have nonetheless.
So who does Bayliss play? Unfortunately for these two, the balance of the side has to be a priority, especially with the kind of opponents England will face. For the very same reason, Sam Billings and Jake Ball would have to sit out a majority of the summer’s important games too, unless, of course, there are any injuries.
Good problem to have, isn’t it?
The XI: Hales, Roy, Root, Morgan, Stokes, Buttler, Rashid, Plunkett, Woakes, Willey, Wood.
Eoin Morgan: “I think it’s great preparation. They are a very strong team and a hard team to beat. What we’ve done well in the past is focus on ourselves and our strengths, particularly at home. That will be no different leading into the Champions Trophy.”