England have spent four years preparing for the World Cup which begins in a little under a month’s time. Four years of work designed to finally, once and for all, put their repeated failure to win a global one-day tournament to bed. That they have hardly put a foot wrong during these last four years is a testament to the leadership, selection and decision making of captain Eoin Morgan and head coach Trevor Bayliss as well as the white-ball growth of a number of players. It’s been plain sailing. Or at least, it was.
Not only has the recent dropping of Alex Hales from the provisional World Cup squad for the failure of a second recreational drugs test put a spanner in the works at the worst possible time, their last series, against the eighth-ranked West Indies, ended in an underwhelming draw. Throw in injury concerns for Jason Roy, Morgan and Tom Curran, and it could appear that England are having a wobble at just the wrong moment.
Which raises the stakes for the upcoming one-off ODI against Ireland and the five-game series against Pakistan. Some confident displays in these matches will prove that the blips of the last few weeks are just that. Conversely, some lacklustre showings could turn a blip into a full-blown crisis.
All eyes will be on Jofra Archer who will make his debut in Dublin on Friday and begin his attempt to win a last-minute World Cup slot after qualifying for England earlier this year. After returning from his spell with Rajasthan Royals in the IPL, he has a maximum of six matches to make his case but given his brilliance in all facets of the game, few would bet against him being in Morgan’s squad for the tournament.