Cricket: England will thrive under pressure of being World Cup favourites, insists Yorkshire CCC batsman Gary Ballance
Gary Ballance, the Yorkshire batsman, believes England will thrive under the pressure of being favourites for World Cup glory as they prepare to host the series on home soil.
The 12th edition of the one-day World Cup will begin in late May and will be hosted in England and Wales for the fifth time, with Yorkshire's Headingley HQ hosting four games - including England's group game against Sri Lanka.
Having won 12 of their last 14 ODI series and lost only to India and Scotland, a run that stretches back to mid-2016, England are the No.1 ranked side in the world and are stepping up their preparations for the tournament in the Caribbean, with a five-match ODI series against the West Indies.
And batsman Ballance, who made 16 appearances for England in ODI cricket, said of Eoin Morgan's men: “They have been playing some really good cricket for quite a few years now.
“They have a really good squad, not just a good eleven. If people are injured or are out of form, they have players who can come in and perform.
“Everyone seems to know their role, and it’s really paid off for them.
“Their balance is ideal. There’s different kinds of batters, spinners who can spin the ball both ways like Adil Rashid and significant pace. It’s all there.
“They have players who can perform in all conditions.
“Wherever they’ve been over the last few years, they’ve performed really well, so in home conditions they would be the favourites for the World Cup.
“They have been favourites in pretty much every series for the last few years, and that seems to have brought out the best in them. I’m sure they’ll go into the World Cup with a lot of confidence.”
England's probable World Cup squad has a very Yorkshire feel to it, with Rashid, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and David Willey very much in England's thoughts.
Paul Farbrace, the former Yorkshire coach, will step down from his role as Trevor Bayliss’ assistant before the tournament, however, to take up a sport director role at Warwickshire.
Farbrace has been instrumental, alongside Bayliss and captain Morgan, in changing England's one-day fortunes since the last World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, when England were beaten by Bangladesh and crashed out at the group stage.
That tournament was also the death knell for Ballance's own international one-day career and last summer, England broke their own world record for the biggest ODI total when they posted a mammoth 481-6 against Australia.
“I’m not surprised by how well they’ve done because there’s so many good players around, and I’ve played with a lot of them before,” Ballance said.
“Ever since the last World Cup, they’ve done brilliantly. And it’s great to see.
“I think there’s a few reasons for the upturn in fortunes. One is that pitches for one-day cricket seem to be getting better, so scores are getting higher and higher. We’ve seen that in county cricket as well.”
West Indian legend Chris Gayle will face England in the five-match series after announcing he will retire after the World Cup, while England go into the games still feeling the scars of an unlikely defeat in the recent Test series.
“We know they have some very talented players who could make it tough,” said Ballance. “But there’s too much quality within that England squad, and I think they’ll win the series.
“There’s four guys from Yorkshire in that squad, and it’s great to have that from a county point of view.
“Rash has also shown how good he is with the white ball and Rooty has just hit a bit of form now with that hundred in the last Test, so hopefully he can continue that.”