England ready to test just how far revolution’s come
ON to the serious stuff then and five one-day internationals beginning in Melbourne today.
What? One-day international cricket is not more important than the test-match version these days? And England have not gone to Australia primarily to face the world champions and advance their status as one of the favourites for the 2019 World Cup?
OK, the tongue may be firmly in cheek here, and it is Twenty20 cricket that we test lovers really should be worried about, but that should not hide any kernels of truth, with this part of the winter always representing England’s likeliest prospect of success.
And that home World Cup next year is extremely important because it was a significant factor in Trevor Bayliss’s appointment as head coach, and England are now a formidable one-day side. But it is not a case of ODI cricket being prioritised above the longer form, as suggested in some Ashes post mortems.
It is just that England are now giving it some attention. Previously it was generally an afterthought. An inconvenience, even.
Now it is a serious business, on the field that is, not just in terms of the cash tills ringing with ticket sales. Some thought and preparation goes into it despite what the naysayers say. That can only be a good thing, and it shows. And England will hope that they can show that a little more in the coming weeks.
For, whatever you say about Bayliss, and everyone appears to have had their say in recent days about the Australian who announced that he is to leave his post in September, 2019, you cannot deny that England’s one-day cricket has been transformed since the debacle at the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in 2015.
That England are still only fourth in the rankings, with Australia third, and that they did not win the Champions Trophy at home last summer – failing miserably to adapt to a used pitch in the semifinal in Cardiff – is disappointing, but they have won 34 of their 52 ODIs under Bayliss. Of the 12 series played, they have lost only three. It is a fine record.
The attacking style of play has made England not only wonderfully modern and effective, but eminently watchable too. They are simply the game’s great entertainers in this format. Pointing to how many times they pass 300 has become something of a cliche, but it is still worth reiterating how far they are ahead of the rest in this respect.
In those 52 games they have scored 300 or more 24 times. That is a remarkable figure. Australia in the same time frame since the previous World Cup, and two fewer matches, have done so 12 times. South Africa, who are top of the rankings, have managed it 15 times in 47 games. Even India, in second place and often playing on flat pitches at home, have reached it 15 times from 53 attempts.
England’s recent form is good. In 2017, they won 15 of their 20 ODIs, with one no result, smashing West Indies 4-0 in their most recent series, while Australia won only five of their 15. Probably only four of England’s starting line-up (Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes) will be carrying Ashes wounds, while Eoin Morgan’s captaincy will freshen Root’s batting and the team’s methods.
Also, the previous time the teams met in an ODI, at Edgbaston in the Champions Trophy, England won comfortably.
This series is surely only going one way, isn’t it?
Well, there is always a caveat and, unfortunately, this one comes with the brightest of red lights in its warning.
And it is not just because that victory in Birmingham last summer was mainly down to an unbeaten century from a flamehaired chap called Ben Stokes, who, as you might have gathered, has not been available to England yet this winter.
More to the point, England have not played in Australia since the beginning of the revolution. Even when they played Australia at home in 2015 under Bayliss they lost the series 3-2.
Of England’s past 12 ODIs in Australia, they have won only one. That was in 2014 in Perth. Of the past 16 ODIs between the two anywhere, England have only won four.
After the one-dayers there is a triangular T20 series with New Zealand, with two fixtures against each side before a final in Auckland. Then England play five ODIs in New Zealand before the twomatch test series in March. – THE TIMES, LONDON
England’s Jonny Bairstow will carry some Ashes wounds into the ODI series against Australia.