LONDON – Skipper Eoin Morgan has promised England will not fold under the pressure of being World Cup favourites ahead of Thursday’s opener against South Africa at The Oval, London.
Ranked first in ODI cricket, England have won 15 of their 19 series since going out in the pool stages at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2015.
They brushed aside Pakistan 4-0 earlier this month and, although they lost their warm-up match with Australia, saw off Afghanistan in their final contest on Monday.
Morgan confirmed his squad has a full bill of health, after injury concerns for Mark Wood, Jofra Archer and Liam Dawson, and declared his side ready for action.
“We have spoken about it as a group, the level of expectation and the favourites tag is there for a reason,” he said. “Over the last two years, particularly at home, we have been outstanding and that is the reason it is there.
“In past World Cups I have played in and some of the others have played in, we have gone with little expectation and not done that well. I would pick this position instead.
“There is a lot of belief in the dressing room. We are confident about our own game. The first game of any World Cup or Ashes feels different and that is natural. Dealing with it is a challenge in itself but one we are looking forward to. A win [against South Africa] under any circumstances will do.”
England will hope to emulate their female counterparts after they won the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2017 on home soil.
The men’s football team also gripped the nation with their run to the World Cup semi-finals last summer and manager Gareth Southgate passed on his words of advice earlier this month.
The two teams’ journeys are remarkably similar and Morgan believes his side can also inspire the country.
“We did the session with Gareth and it was brilliant,” he added. “Every one of our players enjoyed it. He got up and talked about his journey with the team, especially in the build-up and how they increased expectations.
“Everyone who has been in our team recognised that they were in the same place we were four years ago. Hopefully, we can match what they did.”
To do that, a fast start is essential but South Africa – ranked third in the world – will pose a major threat at The Oval, even without fast bowler Dale Steyn who is missing with a shoulder injury.
But it is the conditions which worry Morgan most, with cloud expected for much of the morning.
“In every World Cup, something stands out. And in this one, it could be that every team is three or four down early on because of the overhead conditions,” he added. “We are prepared for that and it is something we will overcome. They are a well-rounded team, they are coming into a tournament with confidence.
“They have coped without Dale Steyn often for about a year and a half. They have cover. The last time they were here, Dale wasn’t and they were fine.”
African News Agency (ANA)