NEWS

Bairstow Brilliance increases England hopes for World Cup glory

March 12, 2018

With the Cricket World Cup not much more than a year away, England's one-day international (ODI) team has never looked in better shape, adding a 3-2 series win in New Zealand to the 4-1 thrashing of world champions Australia, whose hold on the cup looks distinctly loose. 

Ever since the 2015 tournament, England have sought to play an exciting band of cricket played at breakneck pace, like a racing car with only one gear and no brakes. If occasionally that has seen them fly off the track and crash spectacularly, it has also seen some extraordinary lap times. 

Indeed, this summer should see plenty more thrills and spills, as well as a chance to beat Australia again in another five-match series, starting with a clash at the Kia Oval on June 13th

Ironically, it was as much the misery of a brutal defeat against New Zealand in the 2015 World Cup - bowled out for 123 before the Kiwis raced to an eight wicket win in less than 13 overs - as any other loss that inspired England to reshape their approach. Spellbound by the fearless way Brendon McCullum had led his team to an all-out attacking approach that got them to the final that year, England's new coach Trevor Bayliss saw a template to follow. 

The latest series was an extraordinary roller-coaster. The fourth game in Dunedin saw a remarkable meltdown when England, batting first, raced to 267-1 with Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root making centuries. They then collapsed spectacularly, and it needed 20 from the last over by Sam Curran to get to 335-9. It was a total that would still have proven enough in most games, but for a brilliant unbeaten 181 by Ross Taylor. 

Taylor's excellence tied the series at 2-2 and it might have been imagined that, after demolishing the home side's top order in the decider at Christchurch to leave them 89-6 and subsequently 223 all out, England would take the cautious and controlled route to victory. Not so. Sticking to the philosophy of all-out attack, they blazed to the target in just 32 overs, with Jonny Bairstow setting up a seven-wicket win by reaching his century from just 58 balls.

Having made brilliant successive centuries, it is hard to imagine that Bairstow's place in the side was in question not so long ago, with Jos Buttler holding the gloves and Alex Hales playing alongside Jason Roy at the top of the order. Given the quality of the options available, however, it does leave England with a very nice set of problems to have.

Right now, with the two-match Test series imminent, Bairstow will hope he can carry this stellar form into the longer game against the red ball (or pink, in the case of the day-night Test at Auckland).  

New Zealand will hope for plenty of runs from skipper Kane Williams, as well as Taylor, but however the Test series goes, there is no doubt that England are in great ODI shape just now, having won their last six series. 

Having beaten both the 2015 World Cup finalists on their own turf, it appears all that remains for England is a little fine-tuning back home before next year's big tournament.

Image: Stu Forster/Getty Images from Keith Prowse subscription

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