England in World Cup: Never won the title, but favourite this time

England has disappointed the most at the World Cup. Three finals have been lost and, if you were being generous, each defeat could be seen as unfortunate in some way.

But for an injudicious reverse sweep from captain Mike Gatting to the occasional off-spin of Allan Border, England might have chased down a target of 254 against Australia at Eden Gardens in Kolkata, in 1987.   -  Getty Images

Given its history, pedigree and playing resources, England must be regarded as the great underachiever of one-day cricket.

Having established the first professional one-day league in domestic cricket in the 1960s and then played in the inaugural international limited-overs match against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1971, England has yet to win any major global one-day tournament.

Twice it has reached the final of the Champions Trophy, both on home soil and most recently in 2013, when it lost a rain-shortened match against India in Birmingham.

It is at the World Cup, though, where England has disappointed the most. Three finals have been lost and, if you were being generous, each defeat could be seen as unfortunate in some way.

Firstly in 1979 it came up against a West Indies team in its pomp as it lost by 92 runs at Lord’s. Eight years later Australia was the opponent at Eden Gardens in Kolkata and, but for an injudicious reverse sweep from captain Mike Gatting to the occasional off-spin of Allan Border, England might have chased down a target of 254. Instead it lost by seven runs.

At Melbourne in 1992, Pakistan ran out deserved winner by 22 runs. Yet, Imran Khan’s team wouldn’t have even qualified for the latter stages had its group match against England in Adelaide not been abandoned after it had been bowled out for 74.

There can be no excuses, though, for England’s underwhelming performances at the six World Cups since that tournament in Australia and New Zealand 27 years ago. Quite simply it has been abysmal.

England has appeared competitive in ODI cricket in between tournaments, such as when it rose to No. 1 in the world in 2012.

But, come the big event, it has reverted to type and imploded.

England exited the World Cup in 1999, 2003 and 2015 at the first-round stage itself, but it is among the favourites in this year’s tournament.   -  K. R. Deepak

 

Amid the catalogue of failures since 1992 there have been two quarterfinal appearances — in 1996 and 2011 — and it also reached the Super Eight Stage in 2007 in the Caribbean.

Yet, that’s as good as it has got for England, which exited the other three tournaments in 1999, 2003 and 2015 at the first-round stage.

There was at least a significant mitigating factor in 2003 when England missed out on the latter stages after forfeiting a key group match against Zimbabwe in Harare on security grounds after the squad led by Nasser Hussain received death threats.

Even that unfortunate situation fits in with the wider theme of chaos that has been the hallmark of England’s World Cup campaigns in recent years.

In 1999, the last time it hosted the tournament, England was eliminated even before the official World Cup song had been released. But, perhaps the worst collective display came four years ago in Australia and New Zealand when, after heavy defeats to both co-hosts and Sri Lanka, England was knocked out with a game to spare after it slipped to a 15-run loss to Bangladesh in Adelaide.

That was a campaign where muddled team selection and outdated thinking — chiefly that 300 was almost always a winning total — came to the fore. Only Scotland and Afghanistan were beaten by Eoin Morgan’s team. It really was horrendous, but no surprise given England effectively ripped up its planning for the tournament only a few months before when Alastair Cook was sacked as one-day captain and replaced by Morgan.

In the years since, with England again rising to No. 1 in the world under Morgan’s leadership, that decision has seemed a shrewd one.

Yet, even with the team entering this year’s World Cup among the favourites, England’s fans, only too aware of the failures of the past, will again be wondering how it might all go wrong once again.