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Cricket news - England sans pessimism look to get busy living
Even if you're not a sucker for fate, it's hard not to get carried away with this Pakistan 1992 business.
Sure, it's a little laboured. The loss-win-washout-loss-loss-win-win of the 2019 crop tallies with the run of Imran Khan's world champions those 27 years ago. There are ul-Haqs and Sohails in both teams. Music was in the charts. Films in the cinema. Barrel bottoms and scrapes.
But there is one factor, one needle to the balloon of Pakistan's optimism. You see, for all the quirk of sequences, one major aspect of the 1992 World Cup is in jeopardy - England making it through to the final.
Comparing the psyches of both countries' support provides a nice contrast. Pakistan cricket is very much the world of a the dreamer, believing the impossible is possible, for better and for worse. When they leap, jump with them. It's fun. For the hosts, though, whatever grand ambitions they started with have made way for some good old-fashioned English pessimism. Three defeats in seven will do that, especially two in a row heading into Sunday's showdown with India.
So while Pakistan look to evoke the spirit of a previous World Cup win, England are desperate to distance themselves from the shambles of the past. No England side have won a 50-over World Cup, but almost all have embarrassed themselves while trying to do so. This one may be on the cusp of being added to the list.
Certainly Michael Vaughan thinks so. After the meek defeat to Australia he said this could be the worst campaign of the lot. An exaggeration for sure given 1999's rap sheet of incompetence, which included being dumped out of the competition before the official song had been released. Oh, and the 2015 World Cup when a new captain was appointed three months before, a new top three decided upon days before the tournament began and a change of opening bowler more or less on the morning of the first match.
"He's been in two atrocious World Cups himself," pointed out Jonny Bairstow when Vaughan's comments were put to him, referencing the former England captain's part in the 2003 and 2007 competitions. Naturally Vaughan bit back. "Just typical Yorkies," was Jos Buttler's summation of the t'tete-a-t'tete as he looked to cool the matter, to some success.
But Bairstow's first response to Vaughan was telling. This England side may be decked out in 1992 tribute kit, but there is little they want than to be tarred with the same brush as other England sides. Everything about them has been about distancing themselves from ingrained disappointment.
The intent in their batting over the last four years is an acceptance that traditional English conservatism has been their downfall. The quest for out-and-out pace an admission that orthodox medium pace just doesn't cut the mustard. And it is those two aspects that see England clutching for hope around the fitness of two players who identify the very best of those two shifts.
Jason Roy is expected to take up his position at the top of the order after missing the last three games with a torn left hamstring. His recovery over the space off 15 days has been quite remarkable but perhaps says as much about Roy's will as it does about England's desperation to have one of the most dynamic powerplay batsmen back.
The plight of Jofra Archer is not quite as certain. A left side strain saw him bowl a handful of off-spinners on a practice wicket before doing his best to crank up the pace. The first go did not look promising, but a break of about 20 minutes saw him return and bowl around two overs worth of about 80% pace, with wicketkeeping coach Bruce French taking the gloves.
Archer's default, laid-back demeanour meant reading anything into his body language is a fool's errand. But he did head to the nets and bowl some leg spin. Most telling was Morgan's stance on both his and Roy's predicament: willing to take the risk on short-term injury for the good of the cause but against selection of either should longer-term damage be in the offing. Quite how the distinction can be made is best left to the medical experts. But the sense of desperation is palatable.
Even before last Tuesday's game against Australia, the sense of jeopardy had permeated the confidence of a usually bulletproof set-up. And however much nerves may have contributed to that defeat, they will be multiplied here in Birmingham. And while the crowd will be more towards India's favour, the watching domestic public, in the ground and otherwise, will be willing on this England side. That itself is clear from the testimony of the players themselves: Buttler in particular, as one of the more recognisable players, subject to a number of drive-by "good luck" shouts from passing cars.
"I think the support that we've had from our fans and everybody around the country has been unbelievable," said Morgan. "It has been outstanding. There's been an enormous amount of good faith and good will going around, and it's making our tournament at the moment, it's making it that much more special to be a part of and to play in."
It's a sentiment these English players should remember. They may go into this must-win against India sitting in fifth after Pakistan beat Afghanistan on Saturday. But English cricket have never know such a strong, relatable ODI side. For once, a nation that expects much is also hoping, too.
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