England star Jason Roy will play in the Champions Trophy
But when Eoin Morgan ended it emphatically yesterday, insisting Roy would not only play today but throughout the tournament, it said much about who was in charge of this side, its values and its confidence.
Roy is in many senses not just the opener but the emblem of a side recreated from the dust of the World Cup in 2015, a tournament that died for England as this one will be born with a clash against Bangladesh.
And in Morgan, who sat in the Adelaide Oval that night shell-shocked yet contemplating how to rebuild, they have a man leading them who backs the men who accompanied him on that journey unconditionally.
Without fear has been a familiar refrain ever since that night, and without fear is how England will tackle this tournament.
“If we want our players to play cagey or without freedom, yes, we would change things and then probably half of us wouldn’t be here,” said Morgan. “So backing it up with selection [is essential].
“Jason really epitomises the way that we play, the aggression in which he plays, he always plays for the team, and he plays in a manner that is dictated with that. He’s a very important part of our side.”
England squad for the ICC Champions Trophy Tue, April 25, 2017
Express Sport runs through the England squad for the ODIs against South Africa and the ICC Champions Trophy
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Eoin Morgan (Middlesex, captain)
Jason really epitomises the way that we play, the aggression in which he plays, he always plays for the team, and he plays in a manner that is dictated with that
England captain Eoin Morgan
England’s transformation from white-ball mice to men under Morgan has been mesmerising. In the two years up to May 2015, with the World Cup straddling Morgan’s accession, England played 50 times, won 19 and passed 300 five times. Since then, they have played 43, won 27 and passed 300 20 times. It has been a game-changer for limited-overs cricket.
Fire and brimstone alone will not win a major tournament but England’s bowling attack looks nicely balanced too, with Chris Woakes and Mark Wood one of the best opening/death bowling partnerships, Liam Plunkett, Stokes (knee permitting) and Adil Rashid genuine wicket-takers in the middle overs.
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“Since that game against Bangladesh [in Adelaide] we’ve been on a huge upward curve, and we’ve been tremendously lucky in the fact we’ve had a group of players that have bought into a way of playing and enjoyed it,” added Morgan.
“And it is about delivering in every game – that has been the focus in the last couple of series we’ve played in.
“The first cycle of our development in the first year that we were together was about pushing the limits and see how far we can go. The second year was about playing smart cricket and adapting to situations and taking advantage of them. Now it’s time to combine all three.”
The short, sharp nature of this tournament will not allow for a stumble with three group matches, a semi-final and final all inside 18 days. And with South Africa, Australia, India and New Zealand all entering ranked above England in fifth place in the ICC rankings, the task is stiff.
Yet England’s credentials are undeniably strong and, despite their stated aim being the World Cup here in 2019, the near-miss in the final of the World T20 in India last year and in this tournament last time in 2013, when they lost to India at Edgbaston, suggests their time is close.
“With this group of players we have the potential to win tournaments,” said Morgan. “Converting that potential can be a challenge but it is a challenge we are really embracing and looking forward to.
“This is the first of two opportunities to take silverware and, with the other one not being for two years, it would be nice to take this one.”
England will need to harness all of their talents to do so and for all that Roy and Alex Hales will need to be at their best, Morgan continue his recent good form and Stokes and Jos Buttler fire, it will be England’s bowling that could surprise.
In Liam Plunkett they have a hugely underrated performer who could be crucial if he can get his cross seamers going as well as he did in the middle overs in the series against South Africa – a tactic that both surprised and frustrated their batsmen.
England skipper Eoin Morgan backs his team-mates unconditionally
The one dark cloud remains over Stokes and his injured knee. If, as seems likely, the all-rounder can weigh in with five overs per match as Morgan hopes, England can comfortably find the extra overs from a combination of Moeen Ali, Rashid and Joe Root.
If he cannot bowl at all then brows might be furrowed for all that England maintain they are confident that will not be the case.
England should beat Bangladesh today and they should aim to do it as quickly and as comfortably as possible given the possible importance of Net Run Rate in Group A calculations.
Home advantage should also count for plenty and nowhere will that be more important than today when Roy, of Surrey and for the duration of this tournament England, strides out on home turf to kickstart the campaign.