England’s recent ODI performances in the West Indies showcased the best and worst of the side. A 418-6 total in the 4th ODI saw England demonstrate the destructive batting that’s got them to top of the world rankings, whilst a collapse to a measly 113 all out in the next match exposed the sides frailties, with West Indies polishing off the total in only 12 overs.
England have seen a remarkable transformation in their ODI fortunes since Eoin Morgan took over the captaincy 4 years ago. Morgan has turned England’s batting lineup from a slow and steady bunch to the most explosive in the world, posting the 2 highest ever ODI totals. England’s new-found aggression has seen them become favourites for this summer’s world cup in a form of the game in which they were lagging behind the rest of the world only a few years ago.
However, amongst the big hitting and record victories, England have shown an inability to grind out a win when they’re having an off day. The loss against the West Indies is a perfect example of this- once the top order fell England couldn’t arrest the slide, losing their last 5 wickets for just 2 runs. This England side rarely have poor games but all too regularly have disastrous ones.
This can be dealt with in a 5-match series, where a single loss can be forgotten with a few wins, but once the World Cup reaches the knockout stages an off day would be disastrous, a single loss will see England eliminated.
These collapses have most often come away from home with England struggling to come to terms with unfamiliar conditions. Most of England’s wickets in the 5th ODI were due to a lack of judgement of uneven bounce, common in West Indies and rare in England. Next year’s World Cup is being held in England, so in theory England should be more able to cope with more familiar swinging conditions. However, unlike in most series where pitches are prepared by the home team, the ICC will dictate conditions for the World Cup. Whilst familiarity with the weather and the general state of the ground will surely help England, this lack of control over pitch preparation will at least partly negate their home advantage.
Despite their inconsistent performance in the West Indies England will feel confident of being one of the 4 teams to make it to the knockout stages in a home World Cup they enter as hot favourites. Problems may arise, if they get there, in the semi finals and final. England have a fine history of choking in ODI World Cups having lost all 3 of the finals they’ve made. This much changed side has so far avoided falling into the pitfalls previous sides have, but their tendency to collapse leaves an uneasy feeling that come this summer, a disappointing defeat under the pressure of a one-off knockout game could be the one tradition this trailblazing team uphold.