Aberration? Or new normal? That’s the question to be answered after England out New Zealanded New Zealand, out McCullumed McCullum, and scored their highest score, then their highest second innings score. Even in losing the second ODI, they entertained more than their entire World Cup. But can they keep it up for long?
Cautiously, hesitantly, I’m going to say that they can. Why?
Trevor Bayliss and Paul Farbrace
England’s incoming coach hasn’t started his new job yet, but he was involved with the picking of the current ODI squad, and what a squad it was. Hales and Roy have threatened carnage at the top, Root, Morgan and Buttler have moved up the order, all three talented and versatile players given more influence on the game. Bayliss' knowledge of and attitude to the one day game, gleaned from IPL and BBL stints along with a World Cup final in charge of Sri Lanka will surely come in handy. Add to him Paul Farbrace, who took Sri Lanka to World T20 triumph and has been in charge of England for the last two ODIs, and you have a coaching team who will not sideline limited overs cricket.
Eoin Morgan ensconced as captain
An Alastair Cook lead team was never going to be aggressive. As much as they said they were going to play a positive brand of cricket, the presence of a limited accumulator of runs at the top of the order always limited that. With Morgan in charge you get a captain with limited overs nous, one who can concentrate on the limited overs game without Tests to distract him. Plus, now as part of a positive team, he's back in batting form.
Lower order batting
There’s an embarrassment of riches in the England lower order. If Sam Billings starts to come good, he’s a quick scorer at seven, if not there’s still Moeen Ali to come in, strengthening both batting and bowling, or the exciting David Willey. If Adil Rashid’s bowling continues to keep him in the side, he’ll be a great eight. Jordan and Plunkett can both hit absurdly big for where they are in the order and seem to have ice in their veins. This team bats down to ten, giving the top order hitters license to play without fear of collapses to 220.
Burial of the past
Ian Bell, Alastair Cook, Stuart Broad, Jimmy Anderson. 566 ODI caps between them, and all unceremoniously dropped for the current ODI series (or for the World Cup in the case of Cook). If the selectors resist the urge to bring back any of these players back, for the first time England have a clean break. Only Eoin Morgan, someone with proven limited overs skills, is left from the veterans, and this mix of debuting youngsters and players who have recently confirmed their places in the team gives England their first ever proper fresh start in the format. True, some might not work out, and there will be changes, but if England stick to new guns, they’ll build an exciting team for 2019, untainted by repeated major tournament defeat.
Even in losing the second ODI, England must have realised what other teams did years ago, that 300 is not unchaseable as long as they maintain a quick start through the middle overs, that building big scores can help your bowlers and that putting pressure on their opponent takes it off them. These two games have changed the tenor of England ODI cricket. Gone is the inbuilt sense that England aren’t good at ODIs. This team believes they can go big.
Attacking with the ball
It may have gone wrong in the second ODI, and it may have been helped by scoring 400 in the first, but for the first time perhaps ever, England have finally realised that the best way to limit scores is to take wickets. Adil Rashid is a genuinely attacking option, and the seamers have had slips and bowled attacking lines. All four seamers can bowl up to 90mph. Who’d have thought that fast bowling and leg-spin could be attacking?