CAPTAIN Eoin Morgan has put England’s one-day side on World Cup alert, with a year to establish themselves as the team to beat in 2019.
Next summer’s tournament on home soil presents a golden opportunity for England to secure their first major 50-over global success, but they go into tomorrow’s Gillette Series opener against Australia in Melbourne ranked fourth in the format.
This places them behind their hosts, as well as second-placed India and market leaders South Africa, and proves there is a distance yet to go if Morgan’s squad are to end a pursuit that began 43 years and 11 editions ago.
Australia have endured no such torment, landing the title on five occasions, and will arrive next May as defending champions following their 2015 triumph.
As such, this next month provides a perfect test for a touring side with designs on the silverware – something Morgan makes no secret of harbouring.
“This time next year we need to be in a good enough space to be contenders for the World Cup,” said the Dubliner on the eve of the five-match series.
“To be in that space you need to be setting or bucking trends or being able to adapt. We are very open-minded with the way we are going. The best way to address it is to be on the front foot.
“We are going in with the mantra that we always need to be on top of our game and testing the opposition the whole time.
“Australia present different challenges and, hopefully, we can adapt to them.”
One thing they do have in their favour is a relatively settled unit.
This time next year we need to be in a good enough space to be contenders for the World CupEngland ODI captain, Eoin Morgan
Ben Stokes is the exception, of course. The Durham all-rounder is an integral figure in all three disciplines, but remains unavailable for selection as he awaits news from the Crown Prosecution Service as to whether he will be charged following a late night incident in September.
That aside, they have a batting group that has been together consistently for the past couple of years and which shares an aggressive, proactive commitment to the format and a bowling attack boasting enviable variations.
While England’s ill-fated Ashes campaign suffered from a surfeit of fast-medium right-arm seamers, Morgan can call on the quality wrist spin of Yorkshire’s Adil Rashid, the explosive pace of Mark Wood and the extra bounce afforded by Rashid’s White Rose team-mate, Liam Plunkett.
He even has the luxury of a left-armer – Yorkshire’s David Wille – among the reserves and is enthused about the make-up of his attack.
“It is great to see Woody back (from injury). When he has played he’s been brilliant, and Pudsey (Plunkett) has had a reasonable amount of time off so he’s quite fresh,” he said.
“You need an impact bowler and hopefully throughout the series they can produce impact spells.
“I think we made big strides. Adil, Liam and Moeen Ali, to a certain extent, have been brilliant ... Chris Woakes has been Mr Reliable.
“Because scores have been so high in one-day cricket the mentality has to be, ‘Okay I will go for some runs, but let’s take some wickets’. It is how you stem the flow.”
Morgan indicated the decision over who would partner Jonny Bairstow at the head of the innings – Jason Roy or Alex Hales – would be “purely” a cricketing decision.
Hales has only just returned to the set-up having been with Stokes in Bristol four months ago, marking his comeback with a quickfire 52 in Thursday’s warm-up win in Sydney.
Police clarified that Hales would not be facing charges in December and, though an internal disciplinary investigation is pending, that will not stand in the way of his selection for now.
“We play our best six batsman and all-rounder if we can and it will be structured like that,” was Morgan’s assessment.