• Eoin Morgan’s side head to Pune for their three-match ODI series vs Virat Kohli’s India
  • Despite performing well in Sri Lanka at the start of the winter, England have only won three matches in all formats since
  • Although England are reigning 50-over world champions, their record in ODIs has been patchy since 2019
PUNE, INDIA – England must recapture their World Cup winning form in order to avoid defeat in all formats in India this winter, which would be a significant blot on coach Chris Silverwood’s copybook.

 

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Although it is the form of England’s T20 side that will be under closer scrutiny in the coming months with the T20 World Cup scheduled for the back end of 2021, coach Chris Silverwood must be hoping the 50 over series, the final leg of this India tour, finally brings some English success.

Despite taking the lead in both the Test and T20 formats, India have steamrollered England in the games that have mattered most, and England’s lack of ruthlessness must be an area Silverwood is looking to address in his relatively short reign so far. Although he will be optimistic of England’s chances in the 50 over form, given their 2019 World Cup winning triumph which included a dismantling of Virat Kohli‘s India in a crucial group stage clash, Eoin Morgan‘s side haven’t exactly had a glittering record since that victory, when Silverwood took charge.

In eight completed ODIs since the glorious summer of 2019, England have won four and lost four versus their opponents South Africa, Ireland and Australia. England’s 2-1 home defeat vs Australia was their first bilateral series defeat in one-day internationals since they lost to… you guessed it, India, in England’s last tour of the country in 2017.

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The opening tie of that series also took place in Pune, where England failed to defend a score of 350, despite a quick fire 62 (40) from Ben Stokes (more on him later). England’s spinners that day, Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali, both expected to play key roles in this ODI series, went for a combined 98 wicketless runs in just 11.1 overs. For England fans’ sakes that are desperate to celebrate some meaningful success in India this winter, let’s hope they have put that Pune punishment to the very back of their minds before these three games, all taking place in Pune.

Both teams scored over 315 runs in all three matches last time England played ODIs in India, with Jason Roy starring for the tourists, so let’s hope the entertainment value is as high in this iteration of the contest.

 

Headline absences

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Runs are expected to flow from the bat not only because of the calibre of player on show, but because of key holes in both team’s bowling attacks. As was the case for the T20 series, Jasprit Bumrah will be missing for India, while Jofra Archer has been forced to sit out the entire series for England as his troublesome elbow worsens. With these frontline stars missing, expect fringe players such as Shardul Thakur and Reece Topley from either side to stake a claim in two starting XIs notoriously difficult to break into.

While England were at full strength for the T20s, the absence of Archer simply adds to the list of missing World Cup winners. Chris Woakes hasn’t featured at all this winter, despite opening the bowling during England’s run to the top of the world, and Test skipper Joe Root is joining the Warwickshire all-rounder in a period of enforced rest as England’s cricketers’ schedules are carefully managed with Covid adding further complications in an already hectic calendar year.

One exception to the list of key absences is the 2019 Sports Personality of the Year Stokes, who will appear in ODI colours for the very first time since the World Cup. Expect his bit-part role in the recent T20s to be a distant memory by the time this series ends on Sunday as Stokes could easily bat at no.3 in this squad, giving the ginger genius the perfect chance to stamp his authority on a format he hasn’t played in nearly two years. His infectious determination and willingness to perform will rub up off on the likes of less established members of the England setup like Sam Billings, who could combine with Jos Buttler to haul England to some truly mammoth totals if Jonny Bairstow, Roy and co. can set a decent platform at the top of the order.

 

Indian conditions key yet again

As they have done for both the Test and T20 series, expect India to line up with three spinners in their starting XI, despite England having taken a recent liking to the leg-spin duo of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav in recent match-ups. Expect England to have a greater reliance on spin than at any point on this tour so far, with two front-line spinners certain to be selected along with a potential part-time, golden arm option up Morgan’s sleeve too.

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Rashid is a shoo-in to twirl away at India’s batsmen. England’s key selection decision comes down to how much they trust Moeen Ali after dropping him in this format during the World Cup and not selecting him at all in the recent T20s, despite Moeen taking his enforced rest during the Test team’s period in order to get himself ready for white ball competition. If the pitches in Pune look particularly dry, they could even select a third spinner in Matt Parkinson, the 24-year-old Lancashire leg-spinner who has so far participated in two wicketless one-dayers for his country. It is his record in T20 cricket that stands out in his career so far, but he was merely named a reserve for the recent five match series. His promotion to the squad proper suggests it could be Parkinson’s time to stand out on the international stage.

If Stokes does bat at no.3, it could open the door in the middle order for the destructive Liam Livingstone, who has now gone four years since his last appearance in an England shirt. His record in List A cricket is middling, averaging 36 at a shade under a run-a-ball. But it is the option he provides with his part-time off-spin, a role Root normally fulfils in the side, that could push him further up the queue for a series in India.

Morgan’s comments to the media this weekend did suggest England are willing to take a chance on their fringe players for the final leg of their India tour.

“We’ll see guys given opportunities, more so than the T20 series,” Morgan told ESPNCricinfo. “It’s going to be exciting, three games at the same ground against a very strong Indian side is a huge opportunity for everyone to get back out there, in the frame of mind and the pace of 50-over cricket, and for guys who want to make their case in both formats.

“With a World Cup around the corner, playing any cricket is a huge opportunity for guys who have been here on the fringes and not made selection so far. When you score runs or take wickets away from home, there is always a huge incentive to try and push your case forward.”

Morgan is fully aware that top performances in India are worth more credit in the bank for his squad players than most places his team take the field. “The challenge for us is always trying to explore and push the limits as much as we can, given the conditions. In conditions that are a little bit alien to us, like India, it’s nice to get out of your comfort zone and learn more about your team and your players, to make mistakes and learn from them.”

In a country where success is both fleeting and rare for any touring side, picking players with that much more to prove could be the recipe for England to finally turn winning performances into a successful series triumph. However, if this ODI side again shows inconsistency as it has done since the heady days of 2019, head coach Silverwood will begin to feel the media pressure in one of the most high pressure jobs in sport.

The first ball of England’s ODI Series in India will be bowled at 8am UK time on Tuesday 23 March, with games Two and Three taking place on 26 March and 28 March, all in Pune.

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