England become team to avoid with all Eoin Morgan’s players fit and firing | Daily News

England become team to avoid with all Eoin Morgan’s players fit and firing

Moeen Ali paying the price for the way he lost his wicket against Sri Lanka that led to England’s defeat.
Moeen Ali paying the price for the way he lost his wicket against Sri Lanka that led to England’s defeat.

Suddenly the square pegs are fitting into square holes. England have their semi-final at Edgbaston, where they like playing, and when Eoin Morgan said he was not bothered which side he would be playing against, it felt as if he was telling the truth rather than dutifully spinning. Their opponents will be India or Australia.

England are starting to play with confidence and captain Morgan now seems to know his preferred team; it is the one that played in the last two games. Unless conditions dictate otherwise – and this would only happen if there is a very dry, spin-friendly surface – Moeen Ali will probably continue to stick on the yellow bib. At the start of the tournament Moeen seemed an inked-in starter in England’s best XI. But stuff happens.

The suspicion is that the England hierarchy was a bit more exasperated than they let on by Moeen’s final shot against Sri Lanka at Headingley and they feel there is enough variety in their bowling attack without him. Joe Root can propel a few off spinners if necessary. So there is a parallel, which may be oblique, ancient and only recognised by baby boomers but that is an insufficient deterrent for your correspondent: Moeen may finally have something in common with Jimmy Greaves back in 1966.

England’s bowling attack has improved as the tournament has progressed. Jofra Archer must now be regarded as indispensable since he has always been selected, even when feeling “tightness” in his side; Chris Woakes has gone from being the leakiest bowler to one of the meanest; Mark Wood’s body has opted not to rebel and he has retained his place and his irrepressible optimism. To revert to the 1966 parallel, perhaps Liam Plunkett is the team’s Nobby Stiles, albeit with more teeth and a better haircut – the unglamorous, indomitable, invaluable workhorse who gets the job done in the middle (don’t worry, the Trevor Bayliss/Alf Ramsey comparison will not be pursued).

England’s return to form has also coincided with the reappearance of Jason Roy, who has demonstrated that the modern player can defy the old truism that the only way to stay in form is to bat in matches in the middle. Like many of his peers Roy can feel in control of his game by working away in the nets, which is what he had to do once he recovered from the hamstring injury he acquired on 14 June. He has struck the ball exquisitely in the last two matches and somehow his presence spurs Bairstow on to greater heights. They seem to have a healthy rivalry.

A feature of the best sides in the tournament has been the potency of their opening batsmen. Aaron Finch and David Warner have taken the pressure off Australia’s middle order in almost every game; Rohit Sharma, who has hit four centuries in the competition, has done the same for India. Soon someone will take the crucial catches and early wickets will fall – so far Sharma has enjoyed three escapes on his way to his centuries. How the middle-order men, largely untaxed so far, react to the loss of early wickets will be critical.

The likelihood is that India and Australia will prevail in their matches against Sri Lanka and South Africa on Saturday. In which case New Zealand will meet Australia at Old Trafford in the first semi final on Tuesday, an outcome that the Kiwis would probably favour. They relish contests against their rivals across the Tasman – despite the outcome of the last World Cup final. They know that they can beat them in a one-off game, though the presence of a fully fit Lockie Ferguson would help, as would some runs from anyone not called Williamson.

The Sharma/Virat Kohli axis has stabilised India throughout. It is no wonder that they have been batting conservatively in their early overs. India have had Mohammed Shami at No 8 – he averages 7.38 with the bat in one-day internationals – though if they continue to dispense with Kuldeep Yadav, which was their preferred option in their last match, against Bangladesh on Tuesday, then Bhuvneshwar Kumar at eight offers a little more reassurance.

Both India and Australia will have the same goal on Saturday, which may further boost the confidence of Morgan’s side: to avoid England in their semi-final. – theguardian.

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