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Cricket World Cup: Ruthless England deserve place among favourites


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Cricket World Cup: England beat West Indies by eight wickets

The World Cup game against West Indies was a dangerous one for England.

Up until the meeting in Southampton, the Windies had suggested they could be possible semi-finalists.

Even though there were questions about their fitness and mobility in the field, they were a threat to England through the penetration of their bowling and destruction of their batsmen.

That England dealt with them so comfortably – an eight-wicket win with almost 17 overs to spare – after losing both captain Eoin Morgan and opener Jason Roy to injuries, was really impressive.

Morgan’s men looked like a team determined to push on to the semi-finals, while West Indies were listless and devoid of energy.

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Yes, it was as good toss for England to win. Bowling first on a juicy surface was not only an advantage to Jofra Archer and co, but it negated West Indies’ plan of packing their side with fast bowlers.

Later, when England came to bat in warm sunshine, the West Indies pacers banged the ball in, but saw their bouncers have no effect. After that, they had no Plan B.

For as dispirited as the Windies were, great credit has to go to England, not only for the way they played, but the way they refused to be knocked off course by the injuries to Morgan and Roy.

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Archer takes two wickets in two balls

For a long time, we have been talking about how this England side has a lot of bases covered, that they have options and flexibility.

On Friday, it shone through.

Jos Buttler took over the captaincy and immediately had the confidence to call for a review that saw the back of Nicholas Pooran.

Before then, when Morgan was still on the field, Joe Root was used as a seventh bowler and picked up two crucial wickets with his off-breaks.

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Spot the difference! Root takes two caught & bowleds

One of them, a little arm ball to have Jason Holder caught and bowled, was a trick that the great Jim Laker would have been proud of.

Later, with Roy and Morgan struggling to bat, Root was pushed up to open from number three and Chris Woakes came all the way from number seven to bat at first-wicket down.

Root looked in great touch for his century, playing some lovely cover drives to become the first England batsman to hit three hundreds in World Cup cricket.

Woakes, who I have previously advocated for a move to the top of the order, did not look out of place in making 40.

It capped a good day for Woakes, who bowled well after a tough start to the tournament.

Former England captain Sir Alastair Cook, commentating on Test Match Special with us, made the point that Archer’s arrival means Woakes is now the new-ball bowler that other teams look to get after.

For that reason, he has been under the cosh, but he looked nearer to his best in Southampton.

England will now wait to see what happens with Morgan and Roy.

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The slight benefit they have is that their next two games, against Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, are perhaps the two you would most want if you’re unable to field your strongest side.

That is to mean no disrespect to either team, but they are probably the two weakest in the tournament.

For example, if England open with James Vince and bring Moeen Ali into the middle order to give themselves time to make decisions on the futures of Morgan and Roy, they will still expect to win.

They will need to be cautious with Roy, who has previously struggled with hamstring problems. They should not try to rush him back, because if he does serious damage to it, that will be the end of his tournament.

Initially, Morgan looked a greater concern than Roy, because he left the field very, very awkwardly.

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I’m no physio, but I almost breathed a sigh of relief when I heard it was a back spasm, because they can be easier to treat.

However, the news that the captain couldn’t sit down during his post-match media duties is worrying.

Still, England were not fazed by those setbacks and, along with India and Australia, continue to be among the most likely winners of the World Cup.

Yes, New Zealand are top of the table at the moment, but they have had the most gentle fixtures to date. They will come under increased pressure in the coming weeks.

Australia are interesting. They rather got away with one when they played West Indies at Trent Bridge – it was a game they should have lost.

However, David Warner is back in the runs and Mitchell Starc continues to be a threat with his searing yorkers.

For me, though, it is India who are ticking most boxes. Yes, they have to deal with the injury to Shikhar Dhawan, but they seem to have all the attributes to win a World Cup in this country.

It’s been a difficult week weather-wise, but the World Cup seems to be warming up nicely.

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