England have had little luck in 50-over World Cup so far with no titles to show for in the competition’s 45-year history. However, as the country gets ready to play host to the 10-team tournament, there is a growing sense of belief that Eoin Morgan and his men are about to finally end England’s excruciating wait for the trophy.
MORGAN AND ENGLAND RELISHING FAVOURITES TAG
The ‘favourites’ tag has been bestowed on England for good reason with Morgan’s men being the undisputed No1 ODI team for some time now. Blessed with an array of big-hitting batsmen all the way down to No9/No10, England have been scoring 350-plus runs in one-day cricket for fun in recent years.
From the explosiveness of Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow and Morgan to the inventive genius of Jos Buttler, England have star performers strewn across their entire batting order. And with Jofra Archer being introduced into the international set-up, the hosts are starting to look formidable in the pace department as well.
Bar a one-off shock upset at the hands of Scotland last year, England have not lost a bilateral ODI series since the start of 2016 and that is all the more reason for teams to fear them in the World Cup.
Skipper Morgan too hasn’t shied away from the favourites tag and is instead relishing it.
“It’s a huge compliment to be considered favourites this time. I would much rather that than not even be considered as contenders,” the Ireland-born batsman said on Tuesday.
STEADY SOUTH AFRICA GOING QUIETLY ABOUT THEIR BUSINESS
Unlike the 2015 edition of the World Cup and many more before it, South Africa are not being burdened with expectations to end their long wait for a title.
With AB de Villiers having announced his shock retirement from international cricket last year, the Proteas have lost a significant part of their x-factor but they for one, are not complaining.
Faf du Plessis and his men have since been quietly going about their business and the South Africa skipper is more than happy to go into the World Cup with reduced pressure and a lack of expectations.
“In the past, we’ve been guilty of feeling like you need to do something special on the day, something remarkable. That expectation can put a lot of weight on your shoulders,” du Plessis said in the build up to the World Cup.
“All of us badly want to win a World Cup. But, for me as captain, it’s important to make sure that the players don’t feel like they have to be supermen to try and win that tournament.
“They just have to go there and try and be the best they can be.”
Since being thrashed 5-1 at home to India at the start of 2018, South Africa have gone on to win five ODI series in a row and will test England’s title credentials heavily at the Oval on Thursday.
South Africa have been dealt a blow in the lead up to the opener with veteran pacer Dale Steyn ruled out of the England clash. The 35-year-old had sustained a shoulder injury while playing for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL and has failed to recover in time for Thursday’s clash.
England: Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (c), Jos Buttler (wk), Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes, Adil Rashid, Chris Woakes, Jofra Archer, Liam Plunkett.
South Africa: Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock(wk), Faf du Plessis (c), Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, JP Duminy, Andile Phehlukwayo, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Imran Tahir.