England’s cricketers pulling the pyjamas on and flexing their muscles was a source of fear and trepidation for national supporters back in 2015, when they crashed to an ignominious early exit from the ICC Cricket World Cup. Now, they pick up the baton as a different unit completely, which gives hope of a closer contest when the five-match series gets underway at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday.
Three years ago, they were so obsessed with statistics to back up their strategies that a book chronicling England’s woes was published entitled 28 days’ data, parodying the fixation of coach Peter Moores during that tournament as well as four decades of hurt in white-ball cricket.
Trevor Bayliss has set about changing that around with an oft-quoted inhibition to England’s play that has yielded results. In 2017 alone, England won 15 of 20 matches that they contested in the 50-overs-a-side format, with one no result. Taking into account that two of those defeats were in the first two matches of that calendar year, 12 months ago in India, and the form book looks even better.
The contrast with Australian form is stark. Imperious as usual in dispatching Pakistan 4-1 on home soil last summer Down Under, they then suffered back-to-back defeats in New Zealand and a frustrating ICC Champions Trophy in England when a few washouts set up a make-or-break with England, in which they finished second-best by 40 runs in Birmingham to seal elimination. Darren Lehmann’s side were then miserable with the bat in India, as they notched up just one win from five matches in September-October.
So that’s that, right? Form book points to England to avenge their Ashes humbling? Well, not quite and here’s some deeper analysis that might make you change your view.
Modern 50-over cricket dictates that scoring at a-run-a-ball is a must and England have eclipsed their opponents in that vein over the past 12 months. Since the start of the Champions Trophy, England have scored their ODI runs at 6.8, with a run of seven out of nine matches in which they have scored at quicker than 6 per over. Since leaving Australia last summer, Steve Smith’s team have posted 300+ only once and in doing so, in Bengaluru, they won their only one-day international since the last Australia Day. But, as with the Test Matches in Australia, the story is far less complex…
Since the Aussies battered New Zealand to be crowned one-day kings of the world at the MCG in early 2015, they have played 13 matches on home soil and won 11 of them, eight including scores of 300+. None of their opponents (India, New Zealand and Pakistan) have managed to put a cap on their scoring, with David Warner in particular, exhibiting ridiculous form. The opener has plundered 886 from 11 innings at an average of 80.54 with five massive hundreds in that time propelling him up to third in the ICC ODI rankings for batsmen. It’s certainly not a case of dismissing him to win the match though, as Steve Smith (three times), Mitchell Marsh, Aaron Finch, George Bailey, Travis Head and Matthew Wade have also recorded centuries in those matches, showing a consistency that is hard to match in the one-day game.
We mentioned rankings there and in terms of batsmen, this points to Australia too. England can only boast one player in the top 17 of the one-day rankings, with Warner joined by Smith and Finch in that bracket. England do hold the upper hand when it comes to having a higher ranked all-rounder but fifth-placed Ben Stokes remains unavailable for national service and the tourists go on planning without him.