Cricket World Cup 2019: Ben Stokes turning out to be the X-factor as England inch closer to maiden title

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Stokes has been England's star man in the World Cup.

It has not been a campaign without its hiccups and stutters for England but the hosts still remain on course to break their 50-over World Cup title drought.

Eoin Morgan and his men were widely regarded as the favourites heading into the World Cup but those credentials were starting to wear thin after shock defeats to Pakistan and Sri Lanka before a loss to Australia.

Those three defeats nearly derailed England’s semi-final ambitions with their fate hanging in the balance before their fixtures against India and New Zealand. However, the hosts responded in brilliant fashion with two comprehensive victories over their two fellow semi-finalists to keep their maiden World Cup title dream alive.

WHATS WORKING FOR THEM

Batting firepower

England’s power-packed and deep batting unit was always going to be team’s primary strength in the tournament and that has been the case so far.

The hosts have managed to scale the 300-run barrier in six of their nine innings with a 397-6 being their best batting display. Joe Root has been the glue which hold the batting unit together with the right-hander amassing 500 runs while openers Jonny Bairstow (462) and Jason Roy (341) also starting to come into their own this tournament.

The middle-order fireworks have been provided by Morgan (317) along with star all-rounder Ben Stokes (381) who is having a stellar individual campaign.

Bairstow has roared back into form.

Bairstow has roared back into form.

Archer and Wood lead strong pace attack

The introduction of Jofra Archer has also transformed England’s pace attack with the Barbados-born bowler picking up 17 wickets and counting in nine games. Not far behind Archer has been Mark Wood with the pacer cranking up the heat on his way to 16 wickets while Chris Woakes has been excellent of late with the new ball in hand.

Liam Plunkett has been an excellent foil in the middle-overs and the bowling unit has only been strengthened since his return to the playing XI.

WHERE ARE THEY STILL SUSCEPTIBLE

Chasing under pressure

While England’s batting firepower has shone on several occasions in the tournament, it has also been made to look ordinary when the pressure has been applied. The hosts are near unstoppable when it comes to batting first but their vulnerabilities and shortcomings have been exposed time and again when it comes to chasing.

Morgan’s men have won all five games where they have batted first in the World Cup but have tasted three defeats in four while chasing. They were particularly dismal in their loss to Sri Lanka where they fall short in a chase of just 233 at Headingley.

The pressure always seems to get to them in tricky run chases and it will only be amplified in the knock-out clashes with a trophy ever so close.

England remain vulnerable in the chase.

England remain vulnerable in the chase.

Spinners out of form

Their spin attack hasn’t been the most convincing as well with Adil Rashid averaging more than 54 with the ball while Moeen Ali has been out of favour since a string of poor displays.

While England will probably go in with a four-man pace attack at Edgbaston against Australia, they will need to play one spinner and the defending champions will look to target this weakness.

STAR MAN

Ben Stokes

While Root and Archer have been key with bat and ball respectively for England, it has been Stokes who has been the X-factor.

The all-rounder has been in the thick of the action with ball and bat and has always managed to put his hands up when the chips have been down for his team.

Seven wickets with the ball and 317 runs with the bat have been Stokes’ key contributions so far and he has already played match-winning knocks against South Africa and India. He was unfortunate to end up on the losing side against Australia after a valiant 89-run knock.

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