Win or lose on Wednesday against New Zealand this England team are on to something very special in one-day cricket.
They are a young developing team that has many more tournaments together and they will only get better.
The next two ICC events are in England and Eoin Morgan’s team can win them. Most of this team will still be around for the next World Twenty20 in Australia in 2020 and by then they will be vastly experienced.
Already they are exceeding expectations. Reaching the semi-final of this tournament was always a possibility but when you looked at their lack of experience in Indian conditions it would have been forgivable if they had gone home after the group stage.
After the defeat by the West Indies and conceding 229 to South Africa I thought this maybe a tournament too early for this group of players.
But they have managed to keep winning despite only one or two aspects of their play clicking in each game.
Look at their seam bowling against Sri Lanka. It was excellent. But the spinners were poor. Against Afghanistan the batting let them down but the bowlers were excellent. When they lost to West Indies and were battered by South Africa it was the bowling that was not good enough. The batting was magnificent against South Africa.
If they can put together a whole performance they can beat New Zealand. What gives me confidence is the fact Morgan is now looking very calm in the middle. England looked very nervous against Afghanistan and the captain left a straight ball to be bowled for nought. I felt his mind was not in the right place.
But against Sri Lanka he kept his cool and stuck to his plans. Players always look to see if a captain changes when the pressure is on and if he starts flapping it can makes the others jumpy. But Eoin was quietly going about his business speaking to his bowlers, working through his plans and setting his fields even when the ball was travelling while Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera were having a go at the target. I admire that style of leadership. It goes a long way to winning games.
The danger when a side reaches a semi-final is they start to overthink things. Ben Stokes has said they will carry on playing aggressive cricket. Against Sri Lanka I didn’t think it was aggressive cricket that won England the game. It was smart cricket. Batsmen gave themselves a chance to get in and they put up a score. The seamers then held their nerve to win the game. We want the same again. It is not about being gung ho and trying to smash New Zealand. Beat them with brains not brawn.
The good thing about this England team is they do not fear defeat. I always say there are two kinds of nerves. Good nerves and bad nerves. Good nerves come when you are excited by the challenge. Bad nerves are caused by a fear of defeat. I think South Africa suffer from bad nerves because of their past failures. They look like a team fearing the worst all the time.
I think this England team relish the challenge but winning will obviously depend on performance and channelling those nerves in the right way.
We can be sure New Zealand will do just that. They have been the smartest team in the tournament so far. They have played at four venues, travelled thousands of miles and adapted quickly. England have been lucky in the sense they have played at just two venues and conditions have suited them. They have even got away with failing to read the conditions properly in their first matches at Mumbai and Delhi.
New Zealand have not been afraid to make changes to the team to suit the pitch. I expect on Wednesday they will leave out Nathan McCullum and bring in the extra seamer, Adam Milne.
New Zealand have lost just one of their last 13 games in World Cups (and that was the final in Melbourne last year) which tells you they are a high quality team. The highest total they have conceded is 158 against Pakistan and they have bowled two teams out for under 100.
They have had best operation in the field. Tactically they have been excellent and they have become a smarter team under Kane Williamson.
Under Brendon McCullum they were bold, fearless and great to watch. Williamson has taken all that aggression but also been a little bit smarter as well. That is dangerous for England.
Mitchell Santner has been the best left armer in the tournament but England will not mind his flight on a ground like Delhi because anyone who has tossed it up there has flown into the stands. Ish Sodhi, the leg spinner, will fire it in a bit more and that is something England’s spinners have to learn.
Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid have to realise that in Delhi you cannot toss the ball up. It was like benefit bowling against Sri Lanka. They expected one of the Sri Lankans to chip the ball in the air but modern batsmen don’t do that. They put the ball in the crowd.
England’s spinners have to bowl wicket to wicket, fire it in to the deck and try and get the ball to skid on. The trajectory of the ball has to be flatter.
I would like to see England challenge New Zealand to do something different on Wednesday. They have batted first in each game and defended a target. If Morgan wins the toss he should bat first, put a score on the board and see how New Zealand react under the pressure of chasing a target in a semi-final. If Eoin keeps cool again and England squeeze New Zealand in the field then the final is within reach.