Lions are roaring again
England have transformed their game in cricket’s short forms
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.