It's coming home: England's World Cup campaign takes full circle as hosts retreive favourites tag
Before the ICC World Cup began, no matter whom you asked, England were the constant in the favourites column.
The way in which the team flipped around their style of play after the 2015 World Cup and became world leaders in the limited-overs format left little room for other teams to spoil their party, especially this time that the World Cup is being held in their home conditions.
The anticipated start
Morgan & Co started their campaign on a solid note with a massive 104-run victory over South Africa in the tournament opener. However, the team suffered a rare blip against Pakistan as despite centuries from Jos Buttler and Joe Root, they fell short by 14 runs.
As expected, the England batting came to its own against Bangladesh and easily beat the Tigers by 106 runs despite the century from Shakib Al Hasan. Another easy win against West Indies followed. However, in this match the team suffered twin injury scares to Eoin Morgan and Jason Roy. Roy had to even sit out of a couple of matches due to a hamstring injury, which also proved to be England's worst phase in the tournament.
The English batting further put their foot on the pedal against Afghanistan as Eoin Morgan played the innings of his life, slamming 148, adorned by 17 sixes.
The team then suffered a massive upset against Sri Lanka, failing to chase down a modest target of 233. It felt as if England were caught in between adjusting to the conditions and going for the kill, in line with their brand of cricket, which backfired that day.
A similar result followed against Australia in their next match. After thrashing Australia by 5-0 just a year ago, England started favourites but were blown away by the Aussies. Chasing a target below 300, the team just did not look equipped enough to face the swinging deliveries from Jason Behrendorff first up. The youngster who was playing his first World Cup match bagged a fifer and was well assisted by Mitchell Starc's four wickets as England conceded defeat by 64 runs.
When Australia beat England at Lord's on 25 June, one more defeat could have seen the hosts crash out of the World Cup in the opening round.— Cricket World Cup (@cricketworldcup) July 11, 2019
Three weeks and three wins later, they're in the #CWC19 final!
What a turnaround!#AUSvENG pic.twitter.com/MWDcj9wzOT
After this defeat, the team stood just one loss away from unceremoniously crashing out from the tournament, but as Eoin Morgan said at the post-match conference after this loss that England's fate was still in their own hands and boy, did they turn things around from there on.
A win against India by 31 runs was a massive boost for England. The team utilised the short boundaries at Edgbaston to their advantage with Jason Roy back in the side. England then blew away New Zealand in their last group stage game to qualify to the semi-final in style.
Their semi-final clash against Australia was expected to be a close one as the latter had just steamrolled them in the group stage. However, that was not to be as Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer dished out almost unplayable deliveries to the Aussies, before Jason Roy made easy work of the 227-run total.
The last hurdle
“I think as a team we have learnt to enjoy ourselves, particularly days like this, even if they don't go well. If you had offered us the position to play in a final the day after we were knocked out of the 2015 World Cup, I would have laughed at you. I think Sunday's not a day to shy away from, it's a day to look forward to, much like this. We have created the opportunity to play in a World Cup final. It will be a matter of the same again trying to produce everything that we can performance-wise but enjoy the day,” skipper Eoin Morgan was his relaxed self after the semi-final win.
Morgan and boys will now be up against New Zealand in the Final. The Kiwis have not played their best cricket in the latter half of the tournament and would be relatively easier opponents as compared to India or Australia. England have qualified for the ODI World Cup semis for the first time since 1992 and would want nothing but the title, and they would want it more than any team.
Cricket also requires a new ODI World Cup champion and after the sincerity and dedication with which England have made efforts to improve their ODI performances over the last three-four years, is it is only fair that the team goes on to lift the trophy. As the icing on the cake, England will have the entire nation rallying behind them as the final will be broadcast free to air across the UK.
© Cricket World 2019