England have now managed to win ten consecutive ODIs, not counting two that were rained off. Even though it comes on the back of losing five in a row in India, it is still quite remarkable. England are not renown for being a successful ODI side and whilst there is still some way yet to go the odds on them winning the Champions Trophy next year are likely fairly short. England still need to show they can perform over the long term (it was not so long ago that we were being hammered in Australia and the World Cup) but this is still promising as this success comes after England seemingly switched to a new ODI tactic.
It is this which is particularly interesting about England’s ODI improvement because they almost seem to be turning back the clock and playing an early nineties style of ODIs. Whilst England have never been particularly good at the format it is with the modern style of having big hitters at the top of the order at which England have really struggled. (There is, of course, the factor of actual team skill to be considered, but it is worth noting that England went to the semi-finals or final of every World Cup before Sri Lanka started the big hitting trend in in the 1996 tournament and have not gone past the quarter-finals since.) Instead, England have at the top of the order two players in Bell and Cook who are technically sound enough to score fairly quickly against the two new balls without taking a lot of risks. England do not score quite as quickly in the powerplay as perhaps they would if they were constantly trying to hit the ball over the top, but they do a very good job at scoring quickly enough whilst keeping wickets in hand. During their winning run, England have never lost more than one wicket during the initial ten over powerplay and usually scored around fifty runs. They have been remarkably consistent about this too; there is almost no change in the scores before and after KP retired. The openers also average over sixty in that time, meaning that England are very consistently going into the second half of their innings with quite a few runs on the board and almost all of their wickets in hand. This plays very well to England’s strengths and I think is a very intelligent strategy. It is almost a Test style of play and in fact England have eight Test players in their first choice ODI XI with two of the absences being enforced due to retirement. It is a strategy does not usually result in huge scores, but rather consistently above average ones. With England’s great strength across all formats being their bowling they are very seldom going to concede more than 275 in an innings.
There has been some question as to whether England can keep this up in the subcontinent, but it is worth pointing out that actually the first four matches in this winning streak were in the subcontinent-esque conditions of the UAE. A more important question, I think, is whether England can keep it up at all. I used the word ‘consistently’ a lot above and I think it has been a huge factor in England’s success (their consistency, not my use of the word). If that continues I think England will continue to regularly win, but the problem is that England have tended to be an incredibly mercurial ODI team. If something throws the team off their stride, an injury to one of the top order for instance, I really don’t know how they would react. The retirement of KP does not seem to have shaken them at all, however, which is promising. On the whole, I think we can expect a strong showing from England in the Champions Trophy next year, but I would not want to venture any sort of prediction beyond that.