They may have suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of South Africa in the 3rd and final ODI on Monday but, after a series victory against the Proteas, England enter the ICC Champions trophy as favourites on home soil. But, is this “favourites” tag justified? Let’s assess the current squad and their chances of capturing a first 50 over trophy in the country’s history.
In terms of a batting line up, England now have an embarrassment of riches at their disposal. Alex Hales remains one of the world’s best opening batsmen in the 50 over game, while Joe Root and an in-form Eoin Morgan provide a formidable engine room in the middle overs. From here, England’s IPL stars of Joss Buttler and Ben Stokes combine to close out the innings, with Moeen Ali at 7 as a form of insurance. It’s perhaps unsurprising that England have scored 300+ in 12 of their last 14 ODI innings, reaching 400 on one occasion!
The only issue England have in the batting department is the form of Jason Roy. He’s struggled for the past 6 months now and it will be interesting to see how long England stick with him if he fails in the early matches. With an in-form Jonny Bairstow waiting in the wings, it may not be long before we see a change.
The Bowling Department
In home conditions, it’s believed that the Kookaburra ball will swing. However, England have problems in the bowling attack. A slight Ben Stokes injury means he’ll start the competition as a specialist batsmen, while Liam Plunkett and Chris Woakes are still doubtful for the opening fixture due to slight niggles. Jake Ball hasn’t quite reached the standards required in the South Africa series, so Toby Roland-Jones will probably step in if any of the players do not quite recover. He’ll certainly have big cricket shoes to fill, with the talent cricket requires at international level being significantly higher than at his usual county level.
Questions will also be asked of England’s “death bowling” after Stokes was famously hit for four sixes by Carlos Braithwaite to lose England the T20 final. However, Stokes has improved since then, and Mark Wood’s recent heroics against South Africa and Chris Woakes’s IPL experience mean that England have a number of options if “plan A” doesn’t work.
Led by the captaincy of Eoin Morgan, England’s fielding standards should be incredibly high; something that has been emphasised by Trevor Bayliss since he took over the role as England’s Head Coach. The IPL experience of Buttler, Stokes and Woakes will also help in tight games.
With Test captain Joe Root and Test vice-captain Ben Stokes in the field, too. England should not be short on energy and enthusiasm in the field, too. With a strong catching record over the past 12 months, England certainly won’t be slouches in this department and, although sides like India have blossomed in the field under the stewardship of Virat Kohli, they’re still a step behind England in this department.
To conclude, although Australia are often the favourites for international tournaments, this is no longer the case. England go into the tournament as deserved favourites, and it really is easy to see why. If Stokes, Woakes and Plunkett all recover from their injuries in time for the first game, then England have a great chance in home conditions to finally bring a 50 over trophy home.