England captain Eoin Morgan is in confident mood ahead of their World Cup campaign which gets under way on Saturday morning as they face the hosts and tournament favourites Australia in front a crowd of 90,000 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The Middlesex batsman was only handed the responsibility to lead his country in December but things have already started to improve after an encouraging tri-series where England twice defeated India.
A comprehensive victory against West Indies followed before their preparation for the World Cup ended with defeat to Pakistan in Sydney on Wednesday. However, Australia continue to be England’s nemesis and after three defeats on the spin they go into tomorrow’s match as strong favourites at the MCG.
Morgan and Peter Moores’ fresh approach has seen England play with freedom and the pair will be hoping that continues in the high pressured environment of a World Cup in cricket’s largest stadium. The only question in terms of team selection seems to be who will get the nod in the number six position, the experienced Ravi Bopara or the up and coming Gary Ballance.
Bopara has found himself in and out of the England side over the past 12-months which has been a surprise to some considering he was crowned the ODI Most Valuable Player for England in 2013. Meanwhile, Ballance established himself in the Test team after a trio of fabulous centuries in the English summer while featuring in 12 ODIs since his 2013 debut.
The Yorkshire lynchpin’s top score actually came at the MCG, 79 against Australia just a year ago and he demonstrated his fitness by returning from a fractured little finger to make a well-made half-century against Pakistan just two days ago.
The rest of the side looks much more settled with Ian Bell, Moeen Ali, James Taylor and Joe Root impressing in recent months while Morgan will continue in his berth at number five. Although the skipper has only scored two runs in his last four innings he did score a century against Australia in the opening game of the tri-series.
With the bowling attack of James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Steven Finn looking settled Ali and Root will be crucial to help stem the runs in the mid-section of the 50-overs. With the consistent James Tredwell also part of the enthusiastic 15-man squad England may spring a surprise and include the Kent spinner but it looks unlikely for the first showdown of the tournament.
“Since we got here we have put in some great individual performances with the bat,” Morgan told ecb.co.uk.
“Ian Bell has hit a great run of form. He’s class when he gets going. I could run through everybody! If we click together as a side we can put a score on the board that’s significant enough to win the game.
“With the ball in the first 40 overs we‘ve been very accurate. We’ve held length well, and we’ve taken wickets early.
“Having Jimmy and Broady back has been brilliant. They’re experienced, Jimmy swinging the ball both ways, and Broady’s aggression is key. They’re very well supported by Chris Woakes and Steve Finn.”
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The nature of England’s performances has been the most noticeable change since Morgan replaced Alastair Cook as ODI captain and that is something the 28-year-old aims to continue.
“The vibe around the camp is free-spirited and it suits the players. Hopefully that will allow them to go out and play in the manner which got them selected.
“If we can produce what I believe is our best cricket on Saturday, we'll be able to beat Australia.
“We know the group stages are going to be tough. But our first port of call is to get to the quarter-final.”