he 2019 World Cup final, the match that will forever define cricketing relations between England and New Zealand, has come to the end of a six-week slog.
Ahead of the game that lasted a lifetime, there was a round-robin group stage that seemed to stretch on forever, a 45-game cross-country journey that began in the dying pangs of the spring and, despite bad weather and several upsets, gave the cream plenty of room to ride by the time the tournament’s top two teams met at Lord’s on July 14.
The road to tomorrow’s clash at The Gabba has been much shorter – much shorter, in fact, than England would have liked after much of theirs was waterlogged by La Nina – but the equation is just as simple: on the side of Jos Buttler, he is winner or bust.
That the weather, in Melbourne in particular, played such a large part is not ideal, but the unforgiving format of this World Cup delivered the danger that is a vital feature of tournament sport over leagues (of franchise ), resulting in upheavals that last beyond the odd bloody nose.
Of England’s seven best players, the supposed envy of world cricket, only Dawid Malan has faced more than 30 deliveries.
England are feeling it, with a win, a rainy loss and a washout to show for three group games so far, and now almost certainly one loss away from being knocked out of a World Cup. world they barely had time to enter. . Buttler, the skipper and arguably the best white ball hitter on the planet, has so far faced just 20 balls in a tournament he would have hoped to make his own, Alex Hales, looking to make amends for Missing 2019 just 25 and Ben Stokes, in his first T20 World Cup since the 2016 heartbreak, is just 12.
In fact, of England’s top seven, the so-called envy of world cricket, only Dawid Malan has faced more than 30 deliveries – which, against Ireland, was part of the problem.
Each of them knows, however, that all it takes is one shot from the showpiece to turn the tide, the kind Daryl Mitchell produced to decide the semi-final between the teams in the United Arab Emirates 12 months ago , or Glenn Phillips’ 104 as Black Caps. beat Sri Lanka this weekend (by the way, twice as many as Buttler, Hales and Stokes have managed between them).
It will fall to the English front four, in particular, not only to weather the familiar storm of new balls from Trent Boult (below) and Tim Southee (New Zealand had their opponents three on the power play in each of their matches) but to do so with a level of aggression worthy of a batting lineup that should once again card Chris Woakes at No. 9. Net run rate may also have a big part to play in all of this.
England bowlers, at least spared a tight 48-hour turnaround in the Melbourne rain, will need similar early forays to hide their well-documented weakness to death. They did just that against Ireland and Afghanistan, trailing at the end of the innings, but they have the painful memories of Mitchell and Jimmy Neesham in Abu Dhabi as reminders on the other side. of the medal.
To win this tournament, England will almost certainly need to win four games in a row, a daunting task in any environment given the innate unpredictability of T20 cricket, let alone a World Cup.
For now, however, Buttler’s men can do little more than focus on Brisbane and the Black Caps once again.