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England top rankings a year out from the Cricket World Cup

May 2, 2018

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England's performance in the 2015 Cricket World Cup was a seminal moment in attitudes to the 50-over game in this country. For years the side has lagged behind in the white ball game, but this had been overlooked as the Test side won four out of five  Ashes series and spent a year on top of the world rankings between 2011 and 2012. 

The one-day international (ODI) team had also, briefly, been on top of the rankings in 2012, but this was while other sides were rebuilding. Overall, results were poor as the team employed a cautious approach that focused on matching the stats of the past rather than raising the bar. 

As a result, the team floundered in Australia and New Zealand, beaten heavily by both hosts and finally eliminated in the group stage by Bangladesh. 

This spelled the end of Peter Moores's second stint as England coach and his replacement, Australian Trevor Bayliss, came in with a remit focused as much on one-day cricket as Tests, not least because England were due to host the 2017 Champions Trophy and 2019 World Cup. 

Bayliss had an immediate impact and the results were spectacular. In the summer of 2015, England came out with a new batting line-up, eschewing the plodders and stroke-rotators for a battery of big hitters who could take any attack apart. 

With Jason Roy and Alex Hales now opening, Joe Root anchoring the innings, Ben Stokes given full licence and Jos Buttler displaying an extraordinary range of shots and the ability to win a match on his own, England suddenly had the freedom and firepower to pile up mammoth totals. Since the last World Cup, the team has topped 350 nine times and seldom makes less than 300. 

Moreover, Morgan has made clear his approach is one of unfettered attack and total batting freedom. Even when the team has been bowled out while being aggressive, he said it was better to go for their shots than to play risk-free cricket just to eke out a few extra runs by batting the full 50 overs. 

The result has been a team that has consistently beaten all comers, with the recent winter producing series wins in both Australia and New Zealand, the debacle of 2015 forgotten. The contrast with the struggles of the Test side was huge.

As a result, it is no surprise that the latest ICC rankings for ODI teams put England on top.  

Fans booking corporate hospitality for the opening ODI of this summer's series against Australia at the Kia Oval on June 13th will expect more of the same. However, they could face a stern challenge; the World Cup holders will be hoping to use the series to improve their own ODI fortunes after a 4-1 home defeat to England last winter. On top of this, with Steve Smith and David Warner sandpapered out of the picture, the Aussies may seek to refresh the side with some of the stars of the Big Bash League.

With a Cricket World Cup a year away, England will be looking to tune up themselves. There are still some question marks over the team's bowling, particularly at the death, while last year's Champions Trophy semi-final defeat against Pakistan provided a reality check; however much they have improved, nothing is guaranteed yet.

However, if England can fine tune this summer, they will be the hottest of hot favourites ahead of next year's showpiece event. They have been World Cup finalists three times. There may never be a better time to take the final step to glory.

Image: GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images from Keith Prowse subscription

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