This year’s cricket World Cup is the tenth in its history, and is being co-hosted by India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka; Pakistan had initially been a co-host but was forced to withdraw amid security fears. It is being contested by fourteen teams over six weeks in a 49-match tournament, in one of the most passionate cricketing environments in the world. England have never won the World Cup in their previous nine attempts, despite finishing runners-up on three occasions. Although England were thrashed 6-1 by the Australians in the recent one-day series, they have had a very successful last 12-18 months which have included series wins over Pakistan and Bangladesh, a first ICC trophy folllowing success in the T20 format and a superb performance to regain the Ashes in Australia for the first time in 24 years. Can 2011 see England win the World Cup?
England have announced that Kevin Pietersen will open the batting with Andrew Strauss in the World Cup, a position that has become increasingly difficult to fill following the failures of Matt Prior, Steven Davies and Ian Bell in recent times. It is certainly a gamble to open with Pietersen, but one that could pay off if he manages to take advantage of the early compulsory power-play overs.
Strauss seemed keen to emphasise that England are serious contenders this year, stressing that the team will have taken a lot of confidence from winning the ICC World T20 in the Caribbean last year. He also claimed that the England squad possessed enough quality to cover the loss of talented batsman Eoin Morgan, and that he would be looking for his side to continue with a more positive approach as opposed to some overly cautious batting displays England have produced in the past. Strauss suggested that injuries to key players sustained in the 6-1 defeat to Australia may have been beneficial as it gave an opportunity for them to rest before the tournament, whilst defeat may have been a good motivating experience for some of the players.
In the first of their warm up games against Canada England produced yet another poor display, scraping past their lowly opposition by only 16 runs. It coincided however with the return of Stuart Broad, who claimed an impressive 5-37 in his first appearance for England since suffering an abdominal muscle tear during the second Ashes Test in December. Jonathan Trott continued his good form with 57, Matt Prior struck 78 batting lower down the order whilst Ajmal Shahzad opened the bowling well with Broad. In their second warm up game England put in a much more convincing display, dispatching Pakistan by 67 runs; Pietersen and Collingwood both notched half-centuries, whilst Stuart Broad excelled once more taking 5-25 to secure back to back five-wicket hauls.
We must remember that England were beaten 6-1 in the one-day series following their Ashes victory in 2009, yet went on to win the ICC World T20 fairly shortly afterwards. England fans will be hoping for a similar reaction in this year’s fifty-over World Cup.
Strauss has scored 985 runs in ODI cricket since June 2010 at an average of just over 46, an impressive return for someone criticised for not being a one-day batsman. His new opening partner, Pietersen, is England’s match-winner. He can be extremely frustrating at times, but is one of few genuinely world class players in the England squad. On his day he can be unstoppable, and fans will be hoping and expecting him to perform on the biggest stage.
Jonathan Trott is not the quickest scoring or extravagant batsman that is often sought after in ODI cricket, yet he provides much stability at the top of the order, and can be relied upon to accumulate runs throughout his innings. Recent performances in Australia have been excellent and he will be hoping to continue his rich vein of form. Ian Bell is an immensely talented individual who seems to score almost effortlessly. His main weakness however, has been his annoying trait of being dismissed softly when he seems to be dominating the bowlers; he must become more consistent to realise his talent. Paul Collingwood has a wealth of cricketing experience and this will surely be his last appearance at a fifty-over World Cup. A tenacious batsman, a fantastic fielder and a more than useful bowler, he could prove crucial in England’s quest for success. Matt Prior’s initial selection was surprising considering that Steve Davies had previously been the preferred option. Batting down the order should reap rewards as he scores quickly and can take advantage of the flat subcontinent wickets.
Michael Yardy is possibly England’s most under-rated player. His consistent bowling in tandem with Graeme Swann slows the progress of opposition batsmen in the middle overs, and he is a more than capable batsman himself. Swann’s ability to turn the ball could prove decisive during the World Cup. He has established himself as one of the best spinners in the world following his reintroduction to international cricket, providing a genuine wicket-taking option, whilst also not going for many runs. Tim Bresnan is a useful all-rounder for England who adds some handy lower order runs to his controlled bowling; he is a vital component of the side, and will be looking to build upon his Ashes success. James Anderson has vastly improved his bowling since he first came onto the scene in international cricket; he memorably took four wickets and was named man of the match against Pakistan during the 2003 World Cup. He has gradually become a world class bowler for England following his new-found focus on bowling line and length rather than constantly looking for wicket-taking deliveries. Stuart Broad is England’s best bowler in the shorter format, combining an ability to take wickets with a relatively low economy rate. Over 100 wickets at an average slightly over 25 suggests that Broad may be better suited to one-day cricket than Test matches.
Ravi Bopara has been drafted into the squad to replace the talismanic Eoin Morgan who has been a key factor in England’s resurgence in the shorter form of the game. Bopara is a talented player but has not yet fully matured into a batsman capable of scoring big runs on a consistent basis. Luke Wright will probably not play much part in the World Cup but is a useful cricketer; he can score quickly in the middle order, and also bowls at a lively pace. James Tredwell will play second fiddle to Swann as the backup off-spinner in the subcontinent. Although he is yet to take an ODI wicket he offers control, and is a handy batsman who has been known to open the batting for his county. Ajmal Shahzad will provide backup to England’s seamers, but would be a more than adequate replacement. He offers both pace and movement, as well as being a useful late-order batsman.
Group A: Australia, NZ, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Canada, Kenya
Group B: Bangladesh, England, India, South Africa, West Indies, Ireland, Netherlands
Strauss (c), Pietersen, Trott, Bell, Collingwood, Prior (wkt), Yardy, Bresnan, Broad, Swann, Anderson
15 man squad: Andrew Strauss (captain, Middlesex), James Anderson (Lancashire), Ian Bell (Warwickshire), Ravi Bopara (Essex), Tim Bresnan (Yorkshire), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Paul Collingwood (vice-captain, Durham), Kevin Pietersen (Surrey), Matt Prior (wicket-keeper, Sussex), Ajmal Shahzad (Yorkshire), Graeme Swann (Nottinghamshire), James Tredwell (Kent), Jonathan Trott (Warwickshire), Luke Wright (Sussex), Michael Yardy (Sussex).