England beat Bangladesh in their final World Cup warm-up game on MondayICC Men’s Cricket World CupHosts: India Dates: 5 October-19 NovemberCoverage: Ball-by-ball commentary on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra and BBC Sounds. The BBC Sport website and app will also host commentary, live text updates and in-play video clips (UK only). More details.
After the debate over who they should and shouldn’t pick, England arrive at the World Cup in India with a very good chance.
They have become a successful white-ball outfit – first under Eoin Morgan and now Jos Buttler – and would be most people’s second favourites behind hosts India.
If England go all of the way it would be the crowning glory for this generation of players.
Yes, winning the 2019 World Cup on that incredible day at Lord’s was wonderful, but, in terms of an accomplishment, defending that title in India, without the home support or the familiarity of conditions, really would be special.
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England are feared as a team. Opposition bowlers are intimidated, knowing full well the destructive power the batting line-up possesses.
There are more question marks around England’s bowling, especially with Ben Stokes not being able to balance the team and play his role with the ball because of an injured knee.
Will leg-spinner Adil Rashid be fit enough to last the tournament? How will all-rounder Moeen Ali fare? Which of the seamers will they pick?
But England – and, just as importantly, their opponents – know they can chase any score and that is not a bad place to start.
Their 3-1 series win against New Zealand last month also answered a few questions following the uncertainty over selection.
Stokes’ 182 put to bed any absurd doubts over whether he should have been picked after coming out of retirement.
Dawid Malan always seems to have to justify his place, but he nailed down that spot at the top of the order with his century, a 96 and another fifty.
People need to let him get on with it because his record speaks for itself. I am always astonished people question him.
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Once Malan secured that spot opening with Jonny Bairstow it was always going to weaken Jason Roy’s position in the squad.
You need the spare batter to be more of a utility player and, although you would not call Harry Brook on opener, he could do it if needed, as well as his more natural position in the middle order.
Captains and management always talk about competition for places being a good thing, but I know from my own experience as a player that it it is not always so. It can spread among your mates in the team and become an unhealthy situation.
Roy has made himself available should England need to call up a reserve and that is a good thing; it shows a happy camp.
Hopefully the 15 players in the squad can now settle down to business.
One issue that has come out of the series against New Zealand is the form of Joe Root after he made three single-figure scores and a 29.
I would not say I am worried – just a bit surprised. Root is a fantastic 50-over player, don’t forget.
Is he still feeling he has to push his scoring rate too much, like he may have felt with ‘Bazball’ in the Test team?
If he is, he must forget that because he already scores at a good rate without taking too many chances.
His approach should be: come in at number three if England lose an early wicket, bat the majority of the overs and score a hundred.
That way, with Buttler, Bairstow, Stokes and Liam Livingstone around him, England will score big totals.
Root made 26 not out from 40 balls against Bangladesh on Monday
These World Cups are all about momentum. England got on a roll last time in those must-win games against India and New Zealand in the group stage before cruising past Australia in the semi-finals – and they have a nice start to this tournament.
They face New Zealand on Thursday before Kane Williamson is fit to return, then Bangladesh in Dharamshala – where conditions suit seamers more than anywhere else in India – and then Afghanistan.
We should not take anything for granted, but they should expect to be hitting South Africa on the back of three good wins.
That said, I would never rule out New Zealand doing well at a World Cup.
I have predicted them as one of my semi-finalists, along with England, India and Australia.
You may look at New Zealand man-for-man and think there are stronger XIs, but they are tenacious and have such a good record, having reached the final of the past two 50-over World Cups, plus two semi-finals and another final in the T20 format.
South Africa are an interesting side too. Quinton de Kock will retire from one-day internationals after this tournament and he may not be the only one.
But the Proteas have found some form, coming from 2-0 down to beat Australia last month, despite all their problems structurally at home.
That shambles could even galvanise them. It did with West Indies at the 2016 T20 World Cup in India.
India are going to be very tough to beat.
In that 2016 World Cup, the last global white-ball tournament here, I remember India’s first match was played on a difficult, spinning pitch and it counted against them when they were bowled out for 79 by New Zealand.
I will be interested to see what the pitches are like this time.
It is in India’s interests to produce good surfaces for batting rather than dust bowls, which detract from good ODI cricket, and the tournament will be better if the hosts go far.
I was lucky enough to be in Mumbai for the 2011 World Cup final, when MS Dhoni hit a six to seal victory.
Afterwards you expect thousands of people to be moving away from the ground, but instead people were pouring into the area around the Wankhede Stadium, all while I was trying to get away for a flight. It was impossible.
This time I was greeted by a sign in Mumbai airport saying this will be the greatest World Cup ever – and why not?
I’m keen to see what the crowds are like for neutral games, but it will be noisy, colourful and great fun.
The 50-over game lurches from being extremely successful to being in crisis and at the moment it does seem the format under the most threat.
What makes World Cups so good is the jeopardy, something lacking from bilateral series when a team lose but move on to another game in three days.
Moreover, these days people think if something is not done quickly then it is not exciting. This tournament will be a reminder that is not true.
What better way to start than a repeat of the greatest final ever played?
Jonathan Agnew was speaking to BBC Sport’s Matthew Henry.