World Number One, hosts, bookmaker’s favourites, what more can England ask for? Perhaps not being one of cricket’s greatest chokers, for a start.
While most people think of South Africa as chokers in World Cups, ask any English fan and they will say that England are the original chokers, from way back in the 1979 World Cup final when they choked in the final. In fact, England were hosts for the first 3 World Cups in a row and didn’t win one of them. They choked in 1992 after all of the other favourites fell by the wayside, only for Pakistan’s fairy tale run ending with victory over England, and there’s oh so many others as well.
While South Africa’s choking means that they never win a knockout match (until they won one in 2015), England’s means that they never win a final. Indeed, many English cricket fans are somewhat expecting them to make it all the way to the final, perhaps unbeaten, only to lose it yet again.
On the topic of choking, I should note that New Zealand are also chokers, or at least were, with seemingly endless World Cup semi finals but no finals. That was, at least, until they made it to the final of the 2015 World Cup. Perhaps England’s choking can finally end too.
It’s a pretty good side with no real holes and nobody of any importance being left out, unlike the Australian and West Indian sides. They cover all of the bases too, from big strokemakers like Eoin Morgan and Joe Root through to big hitters like Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes, then they have bowling depth, all-rounders galore, spin bowlers, fast bowlers – they simply have everything. Some would say that they are the best-looking side in the tournament.
Indeed, England could go unbeaten throughout the tournament. There is no real reason that they should struggle against any team, though the other high-ranking team India could beat them in something of a coin flip, as could South Africa and Australia, the four of which make up the four favourites for this year’s title.
England will not be complacent, though, as they will have fresh memories of being beaten by Bangladesh in the 2015 edition, a loss that directly caused England to miss the quarter finals. England lost to Ireland once too, back in 2011 when Kevin O’Brien went berserk. England seems to be the kind of team that could lose to anyone, and perhaps Afghanistan could be a chance to beat them.
With the nature of the format, being a round-robin affair, it seems hard to believe that England could miss the semi-finals and, given that, there probably isn’t much difference between finishing 1st and 4th, and therein lies England’s problems. They could be so hung up about not losing a match that they enter the semi-finals unbeaten and then, with far too much pressure on them, they are knocked out. Or perhaps they do win but then mess up the final, as they have done so many times before. While they might win, as hosts and then number 1 India did in 2011, it is not going to be easy.
Five Fearless Predictions:
(1) England will qualify for the semi-finals:
The round-robin format means that even if they do have that one upset, even against Afghanistan or Bangladesh, they should still make the semi-finals fairly easily. It’s really hard to believe that they could miss the semis. Even England with their bad luck and choking can’t do that badly, surely.
(2) England won’t win the World Cup:
While I am not sure if they will be knocked out in the semi-finals or the final, I am sure that they won’t win the tournament. It’s far too much of a fairy tale for England to win at home while ranked number 1.
(3) England will dominate:
Whether they go unbeaten or lose that one match against India or even get upset by someone like Afghanistan or Bangladesh, there is no doubt that they will dominate. They are going to win some games by 200 runs, and they are going to be very, very hard to beat.
(4) The hype is real:
If you’ve followed England’s preparation, you might have heard them saying things like how this is “England’s to lose”, and if they do beat any of the bigger teams, expect that hype to get bigger. If England beat Australia, it’ll make big headlines, similarly if they beat India or South Africa, or are at any stage ranked number 1 or are unbeaten deep into the tournament. Expect association football (soccer) to take a back seat here.
(5) Ireland will celebrate the slightest English mistake:
Ireland are furious that the 10-team competition means that they didn’t get to compete, as are Scotland, as well as Zimbabwe and even Nepal would have reason to think that they should have been there, as they would have if it was a 14-team competition as it was back in 2011.
It was England’s idea to make it 10 teams this time (and also for 2023), and many in Ireland think this is to avoid a repeat of Ireland’s 2011 victory over them. So if Afghanistan do beat England, then Irish will love it, as will Scotland to some level. Even if England go all the way to the final unbeaten then lose the final, Ireland are going to gloat. England need to win the trophy to avoid criticism. Anything less will be damning.
Toughest opponents: India, Australia
Easiest opponents: Sri Lanka, Pakistan
Predicted position: Losing semi finalists (8-1 result in group stages)