So this is it. Squeaky bum time. Tuesday sees England’s most import ODI for years. It might even be our most important ODI since the 1992 World Cup final. Lose tomorrow and we’ll be facing humiliation all over again – the humiliation of being tournament favourites, playing at home, and not even making it to the semi-finals. So much has been sacrificed for this event: the county championship has been sidelined, the test team is somewhat in the doldrums, and there are few quality first class batsmen coming through. And with The Hundred relegating our domestic 50 over cricket into a development competition from next season, this might well be our only chance to win a World Cup for the foreseeable future.
The stakes, therefore, couldn’t be higher folks. Lose tomorrow and we won’t be frittering away a gala casino promo code or something like that; we’ll be tossing away the bleedin’ World Cup plus our self-respect! This might sound a bit dramatic, but if England don’t do well in this tournament then all the pain would have been for diddly squat.
Because so much is riding on tomorrow’s game, I think we can safely say that the World Cup finally begins tomorrow. We’ll have context, drama, plus a compelling narrative: the fact we’re playing Australia is a scriptwriter's dream. Can the old enemy fatally derail England’s World Cup on home soil at the home of cricket? Although we’ll still have a chance of qualifying for the semis if we lose tomorrow, we’ll need to beat both India and New Zealand under the most intense pressure imaginable. And both teams will be doing their utmost to put the favourites out in a consequence-free environment. After all, they’ll already be through by then.
On top of everything we’ve got the Smith and Warner sub-plot. The two pantomime villains of world cricket are sure to get a mixed reception tomorrow – I notice that Eoin Morgan hasn’t exactly discouraged fans from booing our key adversaries – and I’m sure they’d like nothing better than to get the last laugh. I’m sorry to say it, folks, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Bull or the Ginger Rodent come up trumps tomorrow with big centuries. They’ve pooped our party before, and they can do it again.
I just hope the toss doesn’t become a crucial factor tomorrow. There was heavy rain in London today and storms are expected to continue overnight. I bet that pitch is getting pretty sweaty under the covers. Although Lord’s has state-of-the-art drainage, I expect the ball to move around a bit in the first hour. It’s also set to be humid.
If we do lose the toss, and Smith decides the conditions warrant an insertion (if all things were even I’d expect him to ask England to chase), then our tournament could be derailed within the hour. We’ve seen our top order, which is big on firepower but not necessarily first rate in terms of patience and technique, capitulate at Lord’s in the recent past. Remember when South Africa reduced us to 20-6 in 2017? I’d expect Starc, Cummins and Co to present just as much of challenge as Rabada, Parnell, and Morkel did that day.
On the other hand, if England win a crucial toss, then we finally have the firepower to do some damage ourselves. The prospect of a fired-up Archer and Wood steaming into Warner and Smith in helpful conditions is an extremely appetising one indeed. Maybe England could be the beneficiaries of a great toss to win?
I’ll certainly be nervous tomorrow and I expect the players will be ultra-nervous. Those defeats to Pakistan and Sri Lanka just weren’t good enough. Had we won those games we could have strolled into Lord’s relaxed, full of confidence, and in the perfect frame of mind to play our attack style of cricket. But can we still play like millionaires when the pressure becomes excruciating?
I guess we’re about to find out.
Written in collaboration with BR Agency