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Rampant England face resurgent Bangladesh

Wisden India logo Wisden India 01-06-2017 Karthik Lakshmanan
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Imagine someone predicting two years back that England would be overwhelming favourites for a global One-Day International competition. Or that Bangladesh would be ranked higher than Sri Lanka, Pakistan and West Indies.

Chances are, that you would have brushed aside the suggestions, but such has been the transformation of both sides over a short period of time that that’s precisely the situation now. They are easily the two most improved ODI sides in world cricket, and in many ways, it’s apt that they will kick-start the Champions Trophy 2017 with their Group A clash at The Oval on Thursday (June 1).

Interestingly, when the teams look back at their journey over the last two years, they’ll arrive at one common point that triggered their rapid transformations – the thrilling league clash in Adelaide in the 2015 World Cup. Bangladesh edged out England in a tense finish and made it to the quarterfinal of a World Cup for the first time ever, along the way consigning Eoin Morgan’s men to an embarrassing league-stage exit.

Complete coverage: ICC Champions Trophy

Bangladesh haven’t taken a backward step since, showing that the World Cup dream run wasn’t a fluke. England too used that defeat to learn lessons, changing their approach to the game for the better. They shed their obsession with tradition and data, and began to rely more on gut-feel and instinct.

That has led to a never-ending batting line-up filled with men who can destroy any attack on their day, and backed by an incisive bowling attack. The results are there for all to see - England have scored more than 300 an astonishing 21 times since the World Cup in Australia. Just to put that number in context, England topped 300 only seven times in the four years prior to the World Cup.

The incessant power-hitting has blown away oppositions, especially at home, as England head into the Champions Trophy having won four of their last five ODI series at home.

Photos: Revamp complete, England eye maiden title

ICC Champions Trophy 2017: Revamp complete, England eye maiden title: After 2015 World Cup, England has shown tremendous improvement as a whole unit. The batting and bowling has clicked together brilliantly with the likes off Eoin Morgan, Ben Stokes, Joe Root who have changed the entire gameplay with their aggressive approach and techniques. Captain Eoin Morgan in particular has performed exceedingly well in one-dayers with more than 5500 runs, averaging 38.10. His ability to smash quick runs in death overs and also hold on to his innings in crucial times makes him the most reliable England batsman. Being the hosts, this time there will be a lot of expectations from England to clinch their first Champions Trophy title. (Source: File) ICC Champions Trophy 2017: Revamp complete, England eye maiden title

The most recent one would please them the most, for they got the better of South Africa, who are ranked No. 1 in the format. It was the ideal preparation for a big tournament, although they were blown away by Kagiso Rabada in the final game at Lord’s. Morgan was public in his criticism of the green track for that game, but it’s unlikely that the Champions Trophy will see too many such pitches.

The bigger concern for England is Ben Stokes’s fitness. He scored a century in the second game of the South Africa series but was rested for the next due to a dodgy knee. Stokes did train at full throttle with the team on match eve, and should be available for the tournament-opener.

If this was a few years ago, England might have contemplated resting Stokes, given that the other teams in their group are Australia and New Zealand. That they can’t think along those lines anymore is indicative of the respect Bangladesh have earned in recent times.

It’s a respect that's totally deserved; since 2015, Bangladesh have defeated India, South Africa and Pakistan at home, and drawn an away series in Sri Lanka. Their progress has been built on success in the subcontinent, but Bangladesh showed recently that they can do it in these conditions too when they defeated New Zealand in Ireland.

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Just like England, Bangladesh too suffered a jolt in their preparations when they were shot out for 84 by India in a warm-up game at the venue of Thursday’s showdown with England. It showed that their batsmen still had plenty of work to do in terms of understanding the constantly changing overhead conditions in England.

Chandika Hathurusinghe, their coach, admitted that the loss to India was a bit of a blow to their confidence but Bangladesh are not panicking. They chose to take the day off on the eve of the game, showing that they are steering clear of knee-jerk reactions.

Bangladesh will also believe the return of Tamim Iqbal, who was rested for that game, will change their fortunes. Tamim has three half-centuries and a century to his name since landing in Ireland, and if he can provide a good start, the rest of the order is capable of kicking on.

The pitch might not exactly suit them, but Bangladesh could also look to exploit England’s weakness against spin like they did at home a few months back.

Group A is perhaps the tougher of the two pools, even if by a very small margin. It makes a good start so much important, which is precisely what England, Bangladesh, and the tournament itself would be hoping for.

Teams (from):

England: Eoin Morgan (capt), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler (wk), Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

Bangladesh: Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), Imrul Kayes, Mahmudullah, Mehedi Hasan Miraj, Mosaddek Hossain, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Mustafizur Rahman, Rubel Hossain, Sanzamul Islam, Sabbir Rahman, Shafiul Islam, Shakib Al Hasan, Soumya Sarkar, Tamim Iqbal, Taskin Ahmed.

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