Now this is frustrating. For so long, I’d been certain that following England at the World Cup would be quite straightforward. We would stumble along in the Pool matches, win a game against one of the big boys and be full of optimism – then have a stinker against Scotland, Bangladesh or Afghanistan and not even make it to the quarters.
I was determined to enjoy the World Cup simply as an opportunity to see some great matches and if England did, by some miracle, make it to the quarters then my cup would have runneth over.
And then England did the decent thing and relieved Cook of his position. Morgan came in and talked straight and talked sense. He scored a ton. Then England smashed India. And I could feel that sensation again, that feeling that I thought had been banished when it came to England in ODIs. Hope.
They beat India by nine wickets. Surely that meant they could beat anyone? Nine wickets!
I sniffed a chance for England. So back to their squad for a quick look…
Morgan – Positive skipper, solid bloke, evident new energy in the side since his appointment, always gets runs as skipper.
Moeen – Rapidly becoming a legend. Free-flowing bat, fearless smasher of the ball from the start, rapidly improving and important bowler.
Anderson – Still the swing king, four cheap wickets the other day, well rested and raring to go.
Ballance – A real find last year, adaptable player, great cricket brain.
Bell – 187…141…smooth stroking, late cutting, cover driving, finally delivering.
Bopara – Finally found his role with the bat and has an ability to smash it miles; canny bowler.
Broad – Experience, pace, accuracy with the ball; mercurial ability with the bat; loves showing Aussies what he can do.
Buttler – Was the first of England’s new generation to seal his place. Plays shots that appear to be impossible; feared by opponents; secure in his position; improving with the gloves and pretty decent now.
Finn – Tall, quick, awkward. A five-for to boost his confidence the other day. Has stopped raising his arm, smoothing his hair and looking bemused after every delivery that the batsman misses. Finny’s back!
Hales – Devastating opener who scored a spectacular T20 ton for England and scored county runs for fun last year. Exciting.
Jordan – What a find. Lively bowler with a knack for picking up wickets, top catcher and half-decent biffer. A ‘makes things happen’ kind of cricketer.
Root – Looks utterly at home for England in all formats now they’ve allowed him to bat in the right position. A pivotal player in the middle order, and handy fill-in offie.
Taylor – Talk about taking your chance. He basically got one knock to secure a place and nailed it. Looks a great option at no.3. Whacks it harder than he used to and is pretty inventive.
Tredwell – As inconceivable as it is to imagine him in his whites for England, it’s equally hard to imagine another specialist spinner usurping his one day spot. Solid performer.
Woakes – Another fella who’s taken his chance. Looked far too weedy and military medium when he debuted for England but now looks a nailed-on pick and fully deserving of his place. Very decent bat too.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is quite an exciting line-up. So, let’s have a look at that fixture list. So Australia first up. Who have they got? Oh…Warner and Finch. Ah. Smith, Bailey, Maxwell…Johnson, Faulkner, Starc. Well, maybe if we get Warner early. And Finch. And Smith. And hope Maxwell doesn’t come off. And Clarke’s hammy goes. And Johnson’s having an off-day…
Alright, so if we lose that one, who’s next?
New Zealand. OK, well we usually have a chance against the perennial overachievers. So who have they got? McCullum, scorer of four test tons including a triple last year; Anderson a revelation in recent months and holder of the quickest ODI ton until a few days ago; Elliott – ton today; Ronchi – 170 today coming in at no.7 today…Taylor, Vettori, Williamson, Southee. Hang on, this is a damn good side. This is not a team of underdogs.
Who else? Sri Lanka – just lost to them comfortably. Scotland? Afghanistan? Real banana skins.
So I look at our side again…
Morgan – Until his ton a few days ago, hadn’t scored a run for ages with a recent record worse than Cook’s. Golden duck today.
Moeen – Whack whack whoosh. I fear quick 20s and 30s will be more likely that match- defining tons.
Anderson – If it doesn’t swing, he’s in trouble. On a flat deck – fodder.
Ballance – Unproven. Possibly a bit stodgy for ODIs.
Bell – Surely flattering to deceive. Spent 150 matches promising much and delivering little.
Bopara – Had more drinks at the last chance saloon than anyone. Not as good as we hope he is (average in ODIs 28.3 since 2013, 40.88 with the ball. (Hat-tip for the surprising stats @NickSharland.))
Broad – Injury-prone, has lost the snap in his bowling and underperforms with the bat
Buttler – Hit and miss. Inexperienced.
Finn – Still not firing on all cylinders. His five wickets the other day came from poor shot not great deliveries. Just one of those lucky days. Still bowling well below express pace.
Hales – Selected but not trusted. Limited technique has been found out by international teams.
Jordan – Expensive, inconsistent, inaccurate; has a run-up and action that could go very wrong at any moment.
Root – Playing well, if a little slowly.
Taylor – Unproven against world-class bowlers. Early shuffle across the stumps could prove his undoing.
Tredwell – Best of a bad lot. If a team decides to take him apart, they generally do.
Woakes – See Anderson. No swing = absolute fodder.
I’m trying to persuade myself that the second assessment of the players above is the right one and I should retreat to my position of no expectation of success. But really, I know it’s not true. They could do something at this World Cup, England, couldn’t they? Even if it’s unlikely, it’s not impossible.
I can’t wait for it to start now…Damn you, hope, damn you.