26.07.2019 Author: C.NAMASIVAYAMWhat an exciting finish to the World Cup 2019. The final was one of the greatest games in the history of cricket. First, the match ended in a tie and then the super-over, too, ended in a tie. This sounded more like a football game than a game of cricket. After all the drama and excitement, England finally emerged champions for the first time on the premise of having hit more boundaries than New Zealand in the 50-over match.
Moving on, let us analyze what was so unique about this England team when compared to their teams of the past and what shaped their journey to become world champions. Though England was one of the pioneers of cricket, they were initially more attached to the traditional form of Test cricket than white-ball cricket. For the purists in England, one day cricket, in its primitive stage was termed as "Pyjama cricket". A form of cricket that was only played to the gallery.
There were times when England gave more significance to an "Ashes series" than a 50-over World Cup. Their team selection too, was in tune with their taste and mindset. In spite of their indifferent approach to one-day cricket, England still made it to the final of a 50-over World Cup in 1979, 1987 and 1992.
This contradiction could be explained due to the fact that the other teams, more particularly, the Asian teams, were in their rudimentary stages with regards to one day cricket. As a result, the first three World Cups were mainly dominated by the major Test-playing nations West Indies, Australia and England.
In the past few years though, England began to attach more significance to white-ball cricket and it started to reflect on their approach. Hence, the current England team is so different from its predecessors and let us have a look at why that is the case.
#1. Two explosive openersIn the past, England believed in opening their batting with traditional Test openers in the form of Andrew Strauss, Michael Atherton and Alastair Cook. The aforementioned England openers could be classified as steady but not necessarily flamboyant.
However, in Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow, England has two explosive openers in the current team who could take the game away from the opposition in the first five overs. While Roy scored 443 runs at a strike rate of 115 at the World Cup, Bairstow matched him stroke for stroke by scoring 533 runs at a strike rate of 93.
The average opening partnership between Roy and Bairstow at this World Cup was 82 at a strike rate of 98 and it included four century stands. The only time the openers struggled was in the final against New Zealand. The England openers instilled fear in the minds of the opposition bowlers with their breathtaking stroke-play.
#2. Joe Root – The man for the crisisJoe Root was a solid batsman for England at this World Cup. He was the top run-scorer for England with 556 runs and occupied the fifth position in the list of top run-scorers in this World Cup. In the previous World Cups, the No 3 position was occupied by naturally talented batsmen like David Gower, Graham Hick, Ian Bell, and Jonathan Trott. But the big guns never showed the consistency that Joe Root displayed at No.3 and more importantly, they failed to deliver at crunch moments. The presence of Joe Root at No.3 in this World Cup brought about a soothing calmness in the dressing room.
#3. The presence of a genuine all-rounder in Ben StokesThis World Cup-winning team had a genuine all-rounder in Ben Stokes. Apart from scoring 465 runs with the bat, Ben Stokes was effective with the ball and effected crucial breakthroughs for his team. His wickets in this World Cup included Shakib Al Hasan, Usman Khawaja and Colin de Grandhomme. The presence of Ben Stokes allowed England to play with five regular bowlers without upsetting their batting might. Ben Stokes made a huge contribution in the final too.
In the past, apart from Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff, England possessed, if one were to borrow Sanjay Manjrekar’s terminology, only bits-and-pieces cricketers like Mark Ealham, Adam Hollioake, Chris Lewis, Derek Pringle, Craig White, Luke Wright and Ronnie Irani. More often than not, these all-rounders ended up contributing neither with the bat nor with the ball.
#4. The presence of a wicket-keeper who is a match-winner with the batIn previous World Cups, England never had a wicket-keeper who could win matches with the bat. Perhaps the only one who could come close to matching that description was Alec Stewart. As a result, there was virtually no contribution from the wicket-keepers of the past.
Conversely, this England team had two wicket-keeper batsmen who could win matches for their team with the bat. Jonny Bairstow, their Test wicket-keeper, showed tremendous ability with the bat and was also agile in the outfield.
Their ODI wicket-keeper, Jos Buttler too, shone when the occasion demanded a telling contribution. In this World Cup, Buttler finished with 312 runs at an impressive strike rate of 123. Among the wicket-keepers in this tournament, only Australia’s Alex Carey scored more runs than Buttler.
Buttler’s crucial partnership with Ben Stokes in the final was the turning point of the match and the tournament.
#5. The reliance on out-and-out fast bowlersIn World Cups gone by, England relied on swing bowlers of the ilk of James Anderson, Tim Bresnan and Ryan Sidebottom. These bowlers flattered to deceive when the conditions were not conducive to swing bowling. However, in the 2019 edition, England had the express pace of Jofra Archer and Mark Wood to call upon.
The duo was not only good at bouncing the batsmen out but was equally efficient with its pace variation and length. Both Archer and Wood clocked speeds in excess of 150kmph consistently and challenged the technique of the batsmen with the former in particular, testing the quality standards of helmet manufacturers.
While Archer finished as the second highest wicket-taker with 21 wickets, Mark Wood accounted for 18 batsmen. These two fast bowlers managed to rattle the opposition batsmen throughout the tournament.
#6. Separate captain and a separate team for white-ball cricketAfter losing in the quarterfinals of World Cup 2011 and going out in the group stages in 2015, the England selectors started distinguishing players who were suited for Test matches and ODIs. They identified white-ball cricket specialists and appointed Irish-born one day specialist, Eoin Morgan as the captain. Morgan’s aggressive leadership intent helped transform the face of English limited-overs cricket.
Under his leadership, the Three Lions came long way since their acrimonious 2015 World Cup exit at Adelaide and it culminated with their triumph at Lord's in the World Cup final.