England Cricket: Decade Review | A World Cup to begin with, a World Cup to end
The Test-loving nation:
A 3-1 Ashes win in Australia to begin the decade with, followed by receiving the Test mace by beating top-ranked India at home; England began the decade as a nation for which Test cricket was the only true love. The English maintained very high standards in red-ball cricket and gained the status of a respected Test opponent and the 1-2 series victory on Indian soil further enhanced their reputation.
Andrew Strauss, Graeme Swann, Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, Alastair Cook, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, and Ian Bell formed the core of England's team during their dream run at the start of the decade. But amidst their growing stature in the whites, the English continued to be behind the time in white-ball cricket. The love for Test cricket and the simultaneous ignorance for limited overs cricket was clearly visible in their below par show.
The T20 World Cup in West Indies in 2010 saw Paul Collingwood lift the maiden ICC trophy for England; Kevin Pietersen being the chief architect behind the title win and Craig Kieswetter playing the match-winning knock in the final. But the World Cup win did not lead to any change in affection of the English cricket towards white-ball cricket. The Ashes win in 2010-11 was followed by an embarrassing 1-6 loss in ODIs.
A disappointing quarter-final loss in the 2011 World Cup followed, where England tasted defeat from Bangladesh and Ireland in the group stage. They managed to reach the finals in the 2013 Champions Trophy but lost to India in a rain-curtailed game.
The 2015 World Cup saw a new low for English cricket as they bowed out from the group stage after losing against Bangladesh. Eoin Morgan was handed over the role of captaincy just ahead of the World Cup as Alastair Cook failed to impress in ODIs. The orthodox English team reluctant to adapt to the modern-day requirements of the game was well below par in the tournament.
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The early exit paved way for what can be called one of the greatest turnarounds for a team. Trevor Bayliss and Eoin Morgan along with the board laid out a masterplan that changed the approach completely with a shot at once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of playing a World Cup final at Lord's in 2019. The new age of batsmanship was carried on by the Morgans, Buttlers and Roys, who played with swagger and fearlessness. Joe Root became the anchor of a batting line-up filled with batsmen ready to hit from the word go.
The fearless approach in batting was inculcated by bringing in limited over specialists, aided by flat tracks at home. The 2017 Champions Tophy at home, which was seen as a dress rehearsal for the mega-event in 2019, saw England collapse in the semifinal against Pakistan. Doubts loomed over the boom-or-bust approach of the English team, but they continued to play the way that had made them successful in the past two years.
They entered the 2019 World Cup at home as the top-ranked ODI side and one of the favourites. But an against-the-run-of-play defeat to Sri Lanka in the league stage saw England stare at yet another early exit in the World Cups. When pushed against the walls, England showed great character and beat India, New Zealand, and Australia en-route to the finals; they had not beaten any of these three opponents in a World Cup game since 1992.
England's hunt for the maiden World Cup finally ended with a never-ending finale; one of the greatest ODI games to be played, where not even the super-overs were enough to decide the winner. England were declared winners on the basis of boundary count, and the New Zealand-born Ben Stokes becoming the toast of the nation with his heroics in the finals.
The rise in white ball cricket went hand-in-hand with England's fall as a consistent Test side. A run of 10 defeats and 3 draws in thirteen overseas Tests saw legendary Alastair Cook lose his captaincy. Frequent batting collapses became a norm for the English side as they succumbed to double-digit scores in New Zealand (58) and West Indies (77). The top three seems to be revolving since forever now.
But now, as the cycle begins again and those long-lost Test standards prepare for a reboot, England will have to rise to have a shot at yet another finale at the iconic Lord's; this time for the World Test Championship.
England at the start of the decade and that at the end were two very different teams in ODIs; the former being reluctant to adapt to the needs of modern-day ODI cricket while the later defining the modern-day approach for limited overs cricket. They began the decade with the World T20 and ended with their maiden ICC Cricket World Cup, sandwiching the rags-to-riches rise of the English side which is one of the most extraordinary narrative of the decade.
Published 31 Dec 2019, 10:24 IST