Not for the first time do England enter a World Cup with a team that looks more capable than the performances it delivers. There are good players strewn everywhere in this side and it is almost a shock to see how diffident they let themselves appear. Let us examine that further.
In what I believe could be a bowler’s World Cup, England have one of the best, if not the best, user of the new ball in limited overs cricket. Forget his demeanour a moment but James Anderson is the bowler every team wants with the new ball in his hand at the start of a big match. In support he has Stuart Broad and Steven Finn, both almost tailormade for Australia and in Chris Woakes, they have a lively, very English, bowler who they rate with the bat. He is the bowling all-rounder, the entity every team is craving for.
Two players help them get the right balance. Moeen Ali’s presence at the top of the order might still be work in progress but he is now a solid 10 overs bowler. One of those and a wicket keeper in the top six and you have the foundation of a well balanced team. Yes, in the top six, because there is no way the talent of Jos Buttler can be wasted at number seven. I’ll go so far as to say no team in the world would bat him at seven. He is a potential match winner currently being stifled by a theory that England never seem far away from.
But if you hesitate to cast England among the favourites, it is because key positions are filled by unfulfilled talents. Top of that list, and top of the order is Ian Bell who, after 150 games, is still looking for a permanent spot. He is as good as any player in the world and now has the right position. Steven Finn and Eoin Morgan are the others. By now both should have been consistent match winners. But Morgan is cast in the role of the exotic finisher when he could be the player around whom everyone bats. We saw that when he had to come in early against Australia in the tri-series. And Finn is the most inexplicable of them all. A genuine fast bowler of his height bowling after Anderson would have been perfect for England but Finn is the victim of many wrong turns. He is bowling well again but at much reduced pace.
I believe England can threaten at the World Cup but I don’t know if they believe in it themselves.