There was a last-minute captaincy change with Eoin Morgan replacing Alastair Cook on the eve of the tournament. They had a coach Peter Moores that was overly dependent on data, leading to a group of players confused by the demands of the modern one-day game. And let’s not forget the on-going saga surrounding Kevin Pietersen.
The chaos – England suffered a humiliating first-round exit – that enfolded was to be expected. But sometimes hitting rock bottom is the catalyst required to forge a new road ahead. Out went Moores, and in came Trevor Bayliss and now England play with instinct and flair that allows them to chase down 358 - like they did on Tuesday against Pakistan at Bristol - with the ease of Mo Salah finding the back of the net.
It has been a transformation of note, and rightfully earns England the title of favourites heading into a home World Cup set to get underway on May 31 at The Oval.
“They’re the favourites, aren’t they?” Proteas coach Ottis Gibson remarked. “Everybody’s talking about them as favourites. I recall Jimmy Anderson saying some time ago that they’ll have to do something terrible not to win the World Cup, which is good for them. They’re still playing well. They’ve got a good thing going.”
England certainly are a settled unit. They have handled the drama around Alex Hales’ drug use swiftly and decisively, even though Hales may feel aggrieved about being thrown out of the World Cup squad after previously been given assurances he would be free to play, provided he completed his punishment and various rehabilitation measures stipulated by the England and Wales Cricket Board’s recreational drugs policy.
The on-going debate around Jofra Archer’s selection also seems to be settling down. The Barbados-born fast bowler did not play in the last ODI against Pakistan, suggesting he has done enough to convince the brain-trust consisting of captain Eoin Morgan, head coach Trevor Bayliss, and national selector Ed Smith, that he should be invited to cricket’s biggest party.
Gibson, a former England fast bowling coach, will certainly like to see his fellow Bajan line-up against the Proteas at The Oval in the tournament opener.
“Jofra Archer will add some spice to their attack, no doubt. I can’t see how they’re not going to pick him to be honest. Which is obviously good for him. He’s a guy from my hometown, from Barbados, so I’d be very pleased to see him putting on an England shirt and playing in the World Cup. We’re looking forward to that game,” Gibson said.@ZaahierAdams