Joe Root hit 133 to see England over the line with ease
But if further evidence were needed that this team now resides in a very different place it was emphatically proved at The Oval last night as Joe Root led England to a confident start to their Champions Trophy campaign.
Root’s highest score in a one day match – an unbeaten 133 – was the anchor around which England constructed their statement of intent and it was fitting he finished the match with consecutive boundaries.
But there were also equally significant contributions from Alex Hales who opening the tournament with 96 and the continued good form of captain Eoin Morgan, with 75 not out, which saw them over a line set at 306 by Bangladesh.
It was a total they reached with eight wickets and 16 balls still in the locker, too, in so doing posting the biggest run chase in Champions Trophy history.
Given they are not the only ones to have made progress since the day in Adelaide when yesterday’s opposition showed England’s approach to 50-overs cricket as from the dark ages, that is not an accolade they are likely to hold at the end of this tournament.
Eoin Morgan partnered Joe Root expertly
But this was a chase they were rarely out of third gear which bodes well for the rest of this event.
It was a first step which did not come pain free with an injury to Chris Woakes which seems likely to rule him out of the rest of the tournament and the continuing poor form of Jason Roy who missed out on a golden opportunity on a flat deck, falling to a nervous ramp shot for just a single – his fifth single figure score in his last six ODIs.
Just how easy was hammered home by Root, who shared a partnership of 159 with Hales before the latter holed out looking for a six to complete his own century, and who overcame a calf strain sustained when twisting his ankle when on 59.
Root insisted he was “fine” afterwards and certainly the way he coasted with increasingly comfort to his highest ODI score, a century which lifted him level with his captain on 10 hundreds and just two behind Marcus Trescothick, was good news.
Roy’s ongoing troubles will increase the clamour for Jonny Bairstow to be given a run but the team’s victory might keep the wolf from the door a little while yet.
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A day which finished in positive manner had got off to an ominous start when Woakes had to retire hurt after delivering just two overs.
His pain on finishing his 12th ball was confirmed publicly when he buried his face in his shirt and swiftly followed with a signal to Morgan he was done.
Quite how long he will be out for is unclear – he will have a scan today – but weeks rather than days would be usual for a side strain which not only rules out the rest of this tournament but puts the start of the South Africa series at the beginning of July in jeopardy.
Woakes had missed the last two matches of the ODI series with a thigh strain and with Ben Stokes expected to deliver fewer than his full complement following his sore knee, England covered themselves picking Jake Ball and dropping Adil Rashid.
There was sense in the switch given Bangladesh are more comfortable against spin but it proved to be only a qualified success with Ball taking some hammer – for the third time in seven ODIs topping the 80 mark in his 10 overs – but at least putting in a full shift and taking a wicket.
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Ball was not alone though with Stokes and Mark Wood not at their best. Luckily for everyone concerned Liam Plunkett was and his 4-59 was crucial in putting the brakes on the Bangladesh innings just when it threatened to get away from Eoin Morgan’s men.
England are well aware of the quality of Tamim Iqbal and Bangladesh opener laid down a platform that his teammates really should have built on, stroking his way to an unhurried 128 in 142 balls and leaving them 261-3 in the 45th when Plunkett found his top edge.
From there, Bangladesh should have pushed up to 325 at least but Plunkett struck again with his next ball to remove the well-set Mushfiqur Rahim.
Plunkett’s hat-trick ball was a slower yorker which whistled just past the off stump of Shakib Al Hasan but the fast bowler returned in the final over to pick up his fourth.
England will have to shuffle their bowling options before the next match against the Kiwis on Tuesday however Plunkett’s rich vein of form – he has taken three wickets or more in six of his last eight one day internationals – was a major plus.