If it ends up with a World Cup win then focussing on white-ball cricket will have been worth it. It is such a big moment for English cricket in 2019. To win a World Cup at home would be a massive lift for our game. There is still snobbery from some about white-ball cricket in England, but focussing on it is something I agree with at the moment.
England have the players to win it. They just need to be a little smarter at times. The final two games in Adelaide and Perth were handy reminders. To win a one-day series in Australia 4-1 is a big achievement but adapting to conditions remains a problem and the final two games were a leveller, even though Tom Curran was brilliant in rescuing the side in Perth. He epitomises what England have created in ODI cricket. He believes in himself, has the skills and the spirit for the big stage.
I like what Eoin Morgan said in the post-match interview. He said there will be disappointed players who could have performed better and are vulnerable in the side. In the white-ball game, England have created competition for places and are not scared to drop someone. Keeping players on their toes with comments like that is what England are lacking in Test cricket.
The Test team have had a relatively low amount of success and yet it has stayed a comfortable environment apart from the odd batting change. But in the ODI team, despite their success, you can only guarantee Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Jos Buttler, Joe Root, Adil Rashid and Morgan will play at the World Cup. The rest have to perform to stay in.
When England lose games it is either because the ball is moving or they are complacent and lose wickets going for a monster target. I love their style. It is great to watch. But they just need to be a bit more streetwise. It is not about blocking, just being sensible. In Perth, Buttler got out playing a big shot just after hitting a six. Moeen was a walking wicket and was nearly run out being dozy before he was caught in the deep. Guys got in and gave it away. The only thing that will lose England a World Cup is lacking a bit of sense and gauging the conditions.
The perfect ODI performance was in Sydney. That should be the template. They were fantastic. They bided their time to compile the big score. It was not about being gung ho. It was Buttler’s third slowest fifty but then he exploded towards the end with Woakes’ help. That was good, quality ODI cricket. Originally they were going for 270 but made 302, which is far better than targeting 340, going too hard and falling short.
Morgan is a clever captain. As good as we have ever had in one-day cricket. He is smart with his players. His captaincy wins games for England. He is always thinking ahead of the opposition, always looking for wickets. He is also proactive rather than reactive. Some captains follow the ball. Morgan has a fielder in place before the ball goes there and has created a culture geared towards white-ball cricket. He just has to work on his batting. He has a technical fault with the left foot going back towards the leg side. It means he is closed off and has a blind spot to anything coming back into his body. He averaged 45 in 2017, and played nicely, but England need him scoring runs and secure of his place so close to a World Cup.
Who do England drop when Stokes returns? Don’t rule him out batting at three. He would be outstanding and I like three power hitters at the top of the order, so one of Alex Hales or Jonny Bairstow would miss out.
England are lucky to have so many options and the formation does not worry me. They have enough to compete with the best teams in the world. It is just a question of whether they have enough mental strength.
Show us a bit more of the Sydney-style performance with the bat and they will be fine.