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England's ODI Exploits: A progress report

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As 2013 brings not only the opportunity for England to add further jewels to its crown in the form of the Champions Trophy this summer, we also find ourselves at the half way point of the World Cup cycle. As a result, I ask the simple question of how England's recent performances bode for a serious tilt at 50 over silverware in the next two years.

For all England's success in the longest and shortest varieties of cricket, they have somewhat fluctuated between world beaters and serial flops when encountered by the mid-ranged 50 over game.

The past twelve months, for example, bring meat to the argument England are the most inconsistent team at this format. Series victories over Pakistan, West Indies and Australia have been followed by a draw to South Africa, loss to India and defeat in the first ODI Vs New Zealand. However, optimistic onlookers will pinpoint this summer's Champions Trophy as a genuine hope for success, if only for the fact the tournament is played in England itself. Fans, as a result, will hope the team can go one better than a remarkable final defeat to the West Indies the last time the tournament was held on home soil, back in 2004.

Recent team selection for the New Zealand series reflects the ideal XI built to succeed in a tournament held on English pitches. A million miles from the flat, lifeless Indian tracks, England require a stable base built from 'proper' technically gifted players, hence a solid if unspectacular top three of Cook, Bell and Trott. From this, an England middle order brimming with flair and innovation can muscle the total skywards. The emergence of Jos Buttler as a demolition expert adds a further cog in a network already containing attacking masters like Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan. Furthermore, Joe Root's reputation as Geoffrey Boycott reincarnated has changed to one of an innovative strokemaker in only a few months, adding to fierce middle order competition as well as providing an option for a floating batting order.

Regarding the bowling unit, England's selection of seam bowling magician Jimmy Anderson offers the team a strong weapon up front with the white ball. However, the hunt for a genuine all round option, a player equally able to bat at seven as he is to bowl 10 overs of penetrative bowling per game goes on. Most recently, Samit Patel has fallen by the wayside with Chris Woakes the latest to step into the void with the opportunity to firm up his position in the XI for the Champions Trophy. A first class average of 25 with the ball and 38 with the bat suggest he has all the ingredients, however whether he is able to step up to international level remains a huge question mark he must answer over the coming months. Ultimately, no candidate fits the unique bill Andrew Flintoff managed to fill, and come the Champions Trophy, the number seven slot may prove the achilles heel.

England's performances over the remaining two ODIs against New Zealand, plus the return series in early June, offer limited games in which England can finalise not only the starting XI, but also tactics in which a tournament winning side can be created. Indeed, ICC regulation alterations have further supported England's bid for 50 over glory. For years, they seemed unmoved on a stringent tactic of solid accumulation, packed with big hitters down the order to boost the total. Berated as old fashioned and failing to adapt, other nations adopted a top order of hitters, intent on making the most of the powerplay overs. The introduction of two white balls, particularly in English conditions, will not only aid England's strike bowlers of Anderson, Finn and Broad, but possibly prove that England were right all along, as surely the status quo of teams tactics for the Champions Trophy will be one of caution upfront, risk saved for the closing overs.

It’s clear England, with home advantage, can be considered amongst the favourites for this years cricketing silverware. The fresh faced management team of Giles and Cook will be hugely keen to grab the opportunity, not only to stamp authority ahead of the next World Cup, but also  to enjoy a tantalising starter in the shadow of this summer's irresistible main course, the Ashes contest.  




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