x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Champions Trophy: Time for England to rise above the Ashes

The hosts, without a major trophy, have no excuse of heavy schedule after a reworked schedule to focus on priorities.

James Anderson, the most senior member in England's squad with 169 caps, will shoulder the burden of the bowling attack. Ian Kington / AFP
James Anderson, the most senior member in England's squad with 169 caps, will shoulder the burden of the bowling attack. Ian Kington / AFP

England heading to Edgbaston to face Australia with resounding defeat fresh in their minds. The team being written off. Ashley Giles under pressure.

We have been here before. Much has changed since - or rather, because of - the Ashes of 2005, when England finally broke an 18-year hex to win back the urn.

Eight years on and Giles, freshly appointed as the team's limited-overs coach, is back fighting fires and eyeing history, all from the comfort of his home ground in Birmingham.

If England can win this Champions Trophy on home soil, it would be an achievement just as overdue as that Ashes win. The host nation have never won a global one-day international tournament.

To do so, they will have to elevate themselves above the mediocrity they showed in their first two matches of the bilateral series against New Zealand which preceded this event.

The home supporters will hope they do find form quickly, if only to provide a bit of variety. If England fail to advance beyond the group stage, their pool match against Sri Lanka will be the only time they face anyone other than New Zealand or Australia this year.

There is a reason we are faced with a surfeit of Ashes cricket this year, with back to back series following the Champions Trophy.

The two nations - though chiefly England - wanted to break the cycle of playing what they deem to be their most intense and meaningful bilateral series as a precursor to the 50-over World Cup.

England have always arrived at World Cups weary after a long tour of Australia, which explains their underachievement at one-day cricket's showpiece event. Thus the away leg was brought forward a year to this winter. The merit of that switch will be possible to assess only in 2013, but what of the build up to the Champions Trophy?

Consecutive series against New Zealand have been highly competitive, though more low-key than the Ashes. If they do not succeed in this tournament, will England want to drop New Zealand fixtures in future?

Fail this time and what is the excuse going to be? There is a significant one even before a ball is bowled: namely, the fact they are without Kevin Pietersen.

His absence will hurt, but, contrary to received opinion, England do have power hitters to cover. Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow need to fire if they are going to progress in this tournament.

And Stuart Broad and Steven Finn need to provide potent back up to James Anderson and Graeme Swann.

And the fielding needs to improve markedly on the levels set against New Zealand.

And they still need to decide on their best XI. England, a work in progress at a major competition? Maybe not that much changes after all.

Synopsis

Key man – James Anderson
England’s bowling attack is over-reliant on Anderson and Graeme Swann in this format, especially with the recent injuries to Stuart Broad and Steven Finn. Anderson copes well in shouldering the burden and will be a threat at Edgbaston, where the ball usually swings. By the time the tournament is over he will have stretched ahead of Darren Gough as England’s leading ODI wicket-taker.

Why they will win it
Edgbaston, where the crucial first group match against Australia, as well as the final, will be played is a stronghold for England. Most recently, it proved pivotal in the 2005 Ashes, while England clinched their rise to the top of the Test rankings by beating India there two years ago. Although traditionally ambivalent to one-day cricket, this event has a lot riding on it for England, as it is their last chance to win the Champions Trophy.

Why they will not win it
They never do. England are the only major cricket nation never to have won a global one-day international competition. Even when all looks good, history says they find a way of blowing it. They have played in three World Cup finals, and lost them all. And in the last Champions Trophy on home soil, in 2004, they contrived to lose to West Indies when the final seemed won.

Squad    (ODIs)
Alastair Cook (c)    66
James Anderson    169
Jonny Bairstow    7
Ian Bell    129
Ravi Bopara       83
Tim Bresnan    71
Stuart Broad    96
Jos Buttler    8
Steven Finn    33
Eoin Morgan    96
Joe Root    10
Graeme Swann    78
James Tredwell    14
Jonathan Trott     59
Chris Woakes    13

pradley@thenational.ae

 

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