England lived up to their pre-tournament billing of tournament favourites and strung together a superb sequence of performances to resurrect a flagging campaign and go all the way to lift their maiden World Cup trophy.
For the third successive time, the host nation has lifted the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup. England went into this tournament as overwhelming favourites, and having enjoyed perhaps the most dominant run any side has leading up to a World Cup ever. In the span of four years, England had gone from a mediocre one-day outfit without direction to an invincible line-up of world-beaters.
Even so, this was far from a perfect campaign for the home team. But that blip itself was integral to them further evolving and proving why they are truly the top one-day side in the world. England began as people expected them to, with a big win over South Africa in the tournament opener. They even put behind an unexpected defeat to Pakistan in their second game quickly to pick up wins over Bangladesh, West Indies and Afghanistan.
But then, Jason Roy injured his hamstring, and in his absence, England lost to Sri Lanka, in what was the upset of the tournament, and then Australia. As a result, they were left with must-wins against India and New Zealand – two teams they hadn’t beaten at a World Cup in 27 years.
But Roy returned, and with it, England rediscovered their winning ways, putting up strong totals against both teams to qualify for the semi-finals for the first time since 1992. They destroyed Australia at Edgbaston to set up a final date with New Zealand and won, stunningly, on a boundary count after tying New Zealand in both the allotted 100 overs, as well as the Super Over to cap off the greatest final in tournament history with a maiden triumph.
Positives to take home
A complete team performance. England had more than their share of individual superstars, but they all fired in unison. England had four batsmen pass 400 runs in the tournament when no other team had more than two. Likewise, their bowlers shared the wickets around. Jofra Archer, their highest wicket-taker, accounted for 22% off all the wickets that England’s bowlers took in the tournament. Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow were prolific at the top of the order, Joe Root was an immovable object at No.3, Ben Stokes was an absolute machine, doing it all, and Archer, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood and Liam Plunkett bowled brilliantly in partnerships to create, and sustain, pressure.
Gritting it out. England silenced some of their biggest criticisms with their performance through the tournament. When they were under serious pressure after defeats to Sri Lanka and Australia, they could have crumbled under the burden of expectations. But they came out hard and raised their game even further. With their performance in the semi-final, they showed that they didn’t have to rely on winning the toss and were equally confident in chasing – something not many teams could stake claim to in this World Cup. And with their performance in the final, they proved some of their biggest doubters wrong by proving that they could hang in on pitches that offered seam movement, swing and slowness, and are capable of digging in instead of trying to hit their way out of every situation. That’s about as all-round a performance as can be expected from a team that was deservedly crowned champions.
Areas to improve
Finding a back-up opener. Roy missed two games during the round robin and England promptly lost both games. Roy’s presence, and partnership with Bairstow, has played no small part in England turning around their campaign. But it’s unfair to expect the two to put on century stands every time. James Vince, who replaced him, totaled 40 runs in three outings, and given the high standards that Roy sets, those are insufficient numbers to make up for his absence. In an otherwise blistering, and endless, pool of batting talent, this is one weak link that England would do well to find a fix for.
Jofra Archer. Highest wicket-taker for his side. Hit impressive speeds. Delivered in crunch situations. Opened the gates against Australia in the semi-final. And bowled the Super Over in a World Cup final in his 14th ODI. England believed in Archer. You’d probably do well to believe in him, too.
30 May: v South Africa, The Oval, London – England won by 104 runs
03 June: v Pakistan, Trent Bridge, Nottingham – Pakistan won by 14 runs
08 June: v Bangladesh, Cardiff Wales Stadium, Cardiff – England won by 106 runs
14 June: v West Indies, Hampshire Bowl, Southampton – England won by eight wickets
18 June: v Afghanistan, Old Trafford, Manchester – England won by 150 runs
21 June: v Sri Lanka, Headingley, Leeds – Sri Lanka won by 20 runs
25 June: v Australia, Lord’s, London – Australia won by 64 runs
30 June: v India, Edgbaston, Birmingham – England won by 31 runs
03 July: v New Zealand, The Riverside Durham, Chester-le-Street – England won by 119 runs
11 July: v Australia, Edgbaston, Birmingham – England won by eight wickets
14 July: v New Zealand, Lord’s, London – Match tied; Super Over tied; England won on boundary count