Lions are roar­ing again

Eng­land have trans­formed their game in cricket’s short forms

7 Days in Dubai - - SPORT -

A s Eng­land’s bats­men broke record after record in their oblit­er­a­tion of Pak­istan at Trent Bridge on Tues­day, it was hard to imag­ine the coun­try’s one-day team hit its low­est-ever ebb just 18 months ago.

Back then, Eng­land ex­ited the 2015 Cricket World Cup at the pool stage fol­low­ing a loss to Bangladesh, the most em­bar­rass­ing of a sorry run of fail­ures on the sport’s biggest ODI stage.

The team was ac­cused of fail­ing to move with the times in one-day cricket, of fo­cus­ing too much on Test matches to the detri­ment of the shorter for­mat, and of a short-sighted, con­ser­va­tive se­lec­tion pol­icy. Fast-for­ward to Tues­day. A side brim­ming with power and self­be­lief plun­dered a world-record to­tal of 444-3 on the way to a se­ries-clinch­ing vic­tory over Pak­istan in Not­ting­ham. The five-match se­ries con­tin­ues to­day in Leeds.

Other records bro­ken in­cluded most bound­aries hit in an ODI in­nings (59); most sixes in an ODI in­nings by Eng­land (16); the high­est in­di­vid­ual ODI score by an English­man (a su­perb 171 by open­ing bats­man Alex Hales); and the fastest ODI 50 by Eng­land (Jos But­tler in 22 balls). Pak­istan pace­man Wa­hab Riaz con­ceded 110 runs in his 10 overs, the sec­ond most by a bowler in ODIs. “We haven’t reached our peak yet,” Hales said in a warn­ing to Eng­land’s ri­vals. “That’s the most ex­cit­ing thing for us.” The trans­for­ma­tion can be ex­plained by a num­ber of fac­tors, no­tably a new coach, a more pos­i­tive men­tal­ity and clearer strate­gic think­ing by Eng­land's cricket chiefs. Hav­ing a tal­ented gen­er­a­tion of play­ers helps, too - even though they were there all along. Two months after the World Cup, Eng­land hired Trevor Bayliss (left) as a new coach as part of an over­haul of the na­tional team. This was a ma­jor step to­ward im­prov­ing the coun­try’s ODI for­tunes, as Bayliss had a proven track record in the white-ball for­mat, hav­ing led Sri Lanka to the 2011 World Cup fi­nal and won the In­dian Premier League twice with Kolkata Knight Rid­ers.

The change in ap­proach of the Eng­land’s cur­rent limited-overs teams is strik­ing. Play­ing with free­dom and with­out fear, Eng­land has set six of its best eight ODI scores since the 2015 World Cup. They have won four of their six ODI se­ries since the World Cup - los­ing the other two 3-2 to South Africa and world cham­pion Aus­tralia.

Eng­land lost the World T20 fi­nal to West In­dies in April. But the tro­phy An­drew Strauss, Bayliss and the team re­ally have their eyes on is the World Cup in 2019, hosted in Eng­land.

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