If England are to finally win the Cricket World Cup, they will view events that happened in 2015 as the turning point.

Four years ago in Australia and New Zealand, the ODI team hit rock bottom. An outdated, pedestrian approach to 50-over cricket was exposed as they were thrashed in four of their opening five games and meekly exited the tournament. 

It was a wake-up call that prompted a revolution. England became more aggressive, developed a ruthless streak and entered this tournament, on home soil, as the ICC's top-ranked nation and the favourites to end their wait for a maiden World Cup triumph.

And yet if Eoin Morgan is to lift the trophy at Lord's on July 14, it may well be because of another 2015 event.

It was four years ago when Barbados-born Jofra Archer upped sticks and moved to England having been frustrated by a lack of opportunities with West Indies.

Back then he would not have been in the England and Wales Cricket Board's plans for the 2019 World Cup. Had the previous residency requirements stayed in place, Archer would likely have been playing county cricket for Sussex on Thursday.

Instead, the rules were relaxed and Archer was spearheading England's attack, his 3-27 the driving force behind a 104-run victory over South Africa in the World Cup opener at The Oval.

After watching Archer unsettle the Proteas' top order, it is hard to imagine why there was even any discussion about whether he should be named in the 15-man squad once he qualified to play for England in March.

The doubters pointed to Sam Burgess' inclusion in England's 2015 Rugby World Cup squad just six months after his union debut. The subsequent humiliating tournament the hosts endured left Burgess scapegoated.

Why would their cricket equivalents risk upsetting their own applecart with a player who only made his ODI debut earlier this month when they already looked so primed for glory with a settled squad? 

That question was put to bed emphatically on Thursday. This is supposed to be the tournament when England's batsmen take centre stage but having posted 311-8 on a green-tinged surface, it was Archer who needed to be the difference-maker. 

His impact was felt even before he took his first wicket, a vicious 90mph short ball rearing up and crashing into Hashim Amla's helmet grille in the fourth over, forcing the opener off hurt, though he would later return.

It was Archer who made the first breakthrough too as he responded to Aiden Markram crashing him through the covers for four by finding the South African's edge with the very next delivery.

Captain Faf du Plessis was the next to fall. Another shorter ball top-edged to Moeen Ali at fine leg. The extra pace, the added bounce, was proving too much for a South African team that looked like deer in the headlights every time Archer started his run up.

By the end of his first five-over spell - which yielded 2-20 - South Africa were 44-2 and up against it. And when Archer returned for the 32nd over, half-centurion Rassie van der Dussen became his third victim with another miscued swipe, this one reaching Moeen at mid-on.

At that point the game was done. Ben Stokes, himself curiously omitted from the 2015 World Cup squad, had top-scored for England with 89 and later produced one of the greatest catches ever with a diving one-handed take to account for Andile Phehlukwayo, yet it was Archer who made the most telling impact.

England's path to potential glory in July may have started in 2015, and they may get there thanks to the newcomer who has been plotting his international journey for just as long.

Jofra Archer lived up to the hype surrounding his Cricket World Cup call-up by playing a key role as England completed a resounding 104-run victory over South Africa at The Oval in the tournament's opening game.

A late addition to Eoin Morgan's squad after becoming eligible for England in March, Barbados-born paceman Archer showed why there had been such a clamour for his selection on Thursday, while Ben Stokes also shone and produced an early contender for catch of the tournament.

After the hosts were limited to 311-8 when they looked well set to post a bigger total, Archer swiftly undermined South Africa's reply, taking two wickets in a fine opening spell and forcing Hashim Amla to retire hurt as a vicious bouncer struck the veteran's helmet grille.

Quinton de Kock (68) and Rassie van der Dussen (50) stabilised the Proteas' innings but South Africa then collapsed from 129-2 to 207 all out, with Amla thankfully able to return amid the chaos.

Archer returned to pick up the valuable scalp of Van der Dussen and finished with figures of 3-27 from seven overs, while Stokes - who top-scored for England with 89 - produced a truly extraordinary catch on the boundary as Faf du Plessis' side crumbled.

Stokes leapt high at deep midwicket in the 35th over of the chase and plucked a one-handed take to dismiss Andile Phehlukwayo and leave a sell-out crowd gobsmacked.

England were able to celebrate a comfortable win as man-of-the-match Stokes wrapped up the Proteas innings with a pair of wickets soon after.

 

South Africa opener Hashim Amla was forced to retire hurt having taken a nasty blow to the helmet grille as his team tried to secure victory against England in the opening game of the Cricket World Cup.

The Proteas, chasing 312 to beat the tournament hosts at The Oval, suffered an early setback when Amla came off in the fourth over after a vicious short ball from England seamer Jofra Archer reared up and struck him.

Amla initially called for a new helmet to be brought to him from the dressing room but, after further inspection out in the middle, he left the field while rubbing his head and Aiden Markram came out to join Quinton de Kock.

South Africa were 14 without loss at the time, with Amla having made five from eight balls.

Markram lasted just 12 deliveries and was dismissed for 11 when he edged Archer to Joe Root at slip.

England opted to pick Jofra Archer and Liam Plunkett for their Cricket World Cup opener against South Africa as the hosts left out Mark Wood and were made to bat first at The Oval.

Barbados-born Archer, who only became eligible to be selected for England in March, was expected to feature after impressing in the World Cup tune-ups this month, and Plunkett, rather than Wood, was included by the hosts too.

Wood had scans on an ankle injury sustained in a warm-up fixture against Australia last weekend and, though he was cleared to face the Proteas, he missed out, along with James Vince, Liam Dawson and Tom Curran.

Fast bowler Dale Steyn (shoulder) had already been ruled out for South Africa, whose captain Faf du Plessis won the toss and inserted England. 

Harry Maguire has described Virgil van Dijk as "brilliant" but believes England can cause the Netherlands defender problems in next week's Nations League Finals clash.

Gareth Southgate's side take on the Dutch in their semi-final when the inaugural edition of UEFA's latest international tournament concludes in Portugal.

Van Dijk has enjoyed a superb season at the heart of Liverpool's defence, helping them to a second-place finish in the Premier League and a Champions League final against Tottenham on Saturday.

The 27-year-old has also collected personal accolades as he was named the PFA Players' Player of the Year and Premier League Player of the Year.

Maguire says there is plenty to admire about Van Dijk but is confident the likes of Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling will provide him with a stern test on June 6 in Guimaraes.

"He's a top player," said the Leicester City man, who is also widely considered to be one of the finest defensive operators in the Premier League. "You've seen in the Premier League; he won the best player and he thoroughly deserved that.

"He is a brilliant defender and I'm sure people are learning from him and so they should. I'm sure he's learning from other centre-backs in the game.

"We're focused on ourselves more than the opposition. We have some top-quality players as well.

"We've got numerous players who are talented and players who are more than capable of causing them a lot of problems.

"It's special to go up against the best teams and the best players and that's what we're doing.

"It gives you great confidence when you see your names up there with players of that stature but, at the moment, I'm fully focused on working for the team."

The Nations League was initially criticised by Premier League managers such as Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp but, according to Maguire, the tournament has been a welcome antidote to the general drudgery of international friendlies.

"I think it's been a real success," he added, having helped England through a group featuring their World Cup conquerors Croatia and Spain. "You either play in the Nations League or play friendlies, so I know which one all the boys would prefer.

"People argue that it's not competitive football but you see the way people react when they win the games and the celebrations.

"It's been really competitive to play in. I feel like it's been a real success in terms of playing against top opposition."

England will be looking to make a statement when they face South Africa in the first game of the Cricket World Cup on Thursday.

Eoin Morgan's hosts are the favourites to be crowned champions for the first time and will be expected to demonstrate their credentials at The Oval.

The hosts have no injury problems to contend with after Morgan (broken finger), Mark Wood (foot) and Adil Rashid (shoulder) were passed fit.

Wood, Liam Plunkett and Tom Curran are vying for a place in the side, which will be revealed at the toss. Jofra Archer is set to make his World Cup debut. 

The Proteas will be without paceman Dale Steyn due to a shoulder problem as they plot to claim the scalp of the top-ranked ODI side.

South Africa are also aiming to win the tournament for the first time.

HOW DID THEY WARM UP?

England thumped Pakistan 4-0 in a one-sided ODI series before losing to Australia and hammering Afghanistan.

Jason Roy was England's man of the series against Pakistan after making two half-centuries and a hundred. The opener also smashed an unbeaten 89 in the drubbing of Afghanistan.

South Africa eased to a high-scoring 87-run win over Sri Lanka before rain ensured only 12.4 overs were bowled in the warm-up clash with West Indies.

Captain Faf du Plessis and batsman Hashim Amla made half-centuries as South Africa racked up 338-7 versus Sri Lanka. Andile Phehlukwayo and Lungi Ngidi were the pick of the bowlers.

 

WHAT THEY SAID

Eoin Morgan: "They [South Africa] are a well-rounded team, they are coming into a tournament with confidence. They have coped without Dale Steyn often for about a year and a half. They have cover. The last time they were here, Dale wasn't and they were fine."

Faf du Plessis: "Dale is a big loss to our team but we expected it. When we picked the squad he was 60 per cent ready so we anticipated for this to happen. But a fit Dale Steyn makes our attack a strong one so we need to make a few changes to our team for England. Our bowling is one of our X-factors."

OPTA FACTS

- England and South Africa have faced each other six times in the Cricket World Cup, winning three apiece. England won by six runs in their last World Cup encounter eight years ago.

- South Africa are on a six-game ODI winning streak. That run includes a 5-0 whitewash of Sri Lanka.

South Africa captain Faf du Plessis believes his side will be able to play freely as the underdogs in the Cricket World Cup opener against England.

The tournament gets up and running on Thursday at The Oval, with hosts and top-ranked England taking on Du Plessis' Proteas, who are without star bowler Dale Steyn due to a shoulder injury.

South Africa sit third in the world ODI rankings and arrive on the back of a six-match winning run in the 50-over format but Du Plessis insists his side are clear underdogs and that it is England who most cope with the pressure of being favourites.

"Whether you are favourites or not, you still have to play good cricket," Du Plessis told a news conference.

"[England] deservedly have the tag because they are the home nation and have consistently played good cricket.

"England are the favourites so if it means on the day there is less pressure on us then we can play freely.

"We are going in as underdogs and if that releases some players in the team then that is great."

Du Plessis' counterpart Eoin Morgan, meanwhile, is relishing the favourites tag ahead of what will be his 200th ODI appearance for England.

"We have spoken about it as a group, the level of expectation and the favourites tag is there for a reason," Morgan said.

"Over the last two years, particularly at home, we have been outstanding and that is the reason it is there. 

"There is a lot of belief within the dressing room. We are confident with our own game. Dealing with it is a challenge in itself but one we are looking forward to. A win under any circumstances will do."

Harry Maguire believes the serial winners from Manchester City in England's squad point the way to glory in the Nations League Finals.

Gareth Southgate's side take on the Netherlands in their semi-final when the inaugural edition of UEFA's latest international tournament concludes in Portugal next week.

Maguire and his team-mates have been operating with reduced numbers as they prepare at England's St George's Park base, with seven of their colleagues set to be involved in Saturday's Champions League final between Tottenham and Liverpool.

Chelsea midfielder Ross Barkley will join the group after Wednesday's Europa League final against Arsenal in Baku, although Raheem Sterling, Kyle Walker John Stones and Fabian Delph are all present and correct after sweeping the board domestically with Manchester City.

Leicester City centre-back Maguire feels having players who have recently tasted such success at club level can only benefit England as the 1966 World Cup winners go in search of a rare piece of silverware.

"It's been a long time since we've had a trophy. You want to be winners," he told a news conference.

"We've got a lot of winners in our team. You've seen with the Man City boys who've just turned up and won three trophies this year.

"We've got a lot of winning mentality in our team and hopefully we can transfer it to international football now."

Recent speculation has suggested Pep Guardiola has designs on adding Maguire to his England contingent at the Etihad Stadium.

But the 27-year-old, who is also being linked to Manchester United for a second consecutive close season, insists such talk is not a distraction when he dons national-team colours.

"When I'm away with England I don't think about anything to do with club football," Maguire said.

"As soon as I wear this badge it's really important for myself to focus on England and nothing else.

"At the moment, nothing's going through my head in terms of club football. I'm fully focused on the games coming up."

When England face the Netherlands in Guimaraes, their opponents will be able to call upon arguably the two finest centre-backs in Europe right now.

Maguire is full of admiration for both Liverpool's PFA Player of the Year Virgil van Dijk and Ajax sensation Matthijs de Ligt.

"They've both had excellent years," he added. "De Ligt has been a 19-year-old captain at Ajax and managed to get through to the Champions League semi-finals. He's a had a great year.

"And you've seen Van Dijk has been the standout performer in the Premier League. Liverpool have kept the most clean sheets.

"He's a top, top player and I'm sure all the defenders who are watching him will be learning from him."

Ottis Gibson has no qualms about being tipped to replace England coach Trevor Bayliss, particularly given his contract with South Africa is to expire later this year.

Bayliss will leave his role with England when his deal comes to an end in September, having been in charge of the Test, ODI and Twenty20 teams for the past four years.

Gibson, who has twice been part of England's set up as a bowling coach, has been mentioned as a potential replacement – rumours he has no problems with.

Speaking to BBC Sport, the Proteas coach said: "My contract is up in September.

"I'm happy to be linked with any job, because after that I might not have a job.

"I enjoyed both my stints with England. I know a lot of the guys in the dressing room.

"The way they are playing at the moment, I was very much involved in that for the first two years and they have gone on [in the] two years since I left."

When Gibson – whose South Africa side face Bayliss' men in Thursday's Cricket World Cup opener at The Oval – was asked if he would enjoy working in England again, he replied: "I've been living in England for over 20 years, so that's the answer."

Dale Steyn has been ruled out of South Africa's opening Cricket World Cup match against England on Thursday.

The 35-year-old has been struggling with a shoulder injury and Proteas coach Ottis Gibson has confirmed that he will miss the game at The Oval.

"He is not quite ready yet," Gibson said at a media conference on Tuesday.

It is unclear how long Steyn will be out of action for, but he faces a race against time to be fit for his side's second game of the tournament against Bangladesh on Sunday.

The 2019 Cricket World Cup is nearly here. Nearly.

This year's tournament features just the 10 teams (who said less is more, huh?) in a format where everyone nicely gets to play everyone else before the top four progress through to the knockout stages.

So, what can we expect to happen over the course of the next six weeks? Well, it's almost certain to rain at some stage, considering it is taking place in England and Wales.

While the winner remains a mystery for now, Omnisport has taken out our crystal ball, polished it up on one side and hit the pitch hard to come up with some scenarios we expect to see unfold at #CWC19. DISCLAIMER: They may not actually happen.


Australia in spectators' sights

Touring Australia squads expect to be the targets in England, with local crowds never slow to offer a word or two to the visitors. Sometimes they even get together in unison in the form of a light-hearted yet mocking song.

However, Steve Smith and David Warner may as well draw bullseyes on the back of their shirts for the next few months. The pair’s involvement in the ball-tampering scandal cost them a year of their international careers and while they have been accepted back into Australia's squad, others will not be so forgiving when it comes to overlooking past misdemeanours.

Expect to see plenty of signs about sandpaper in the stands, though Smith and Warner may be spared the worst of it until the Ashes series that follows on after the World Cup.


Imran Tahir to go the distance when celebrating

You have heard the saying, 'act like you've been there before', right? The idea is that when you have success, be humble about it.

Well, Tahir is clearly not a big believer in showing such modesty when taking a wicket. The South Africa leg-spinner is never afraid to mark a breakthrough by stretching his legs, often setting off on solo runs around the outfield with little regard for team-mates or the match situation.

He may be a slow bowler, but there is nothing sedate about Tahir's over-the-top celebrations. Expect him to clock up the miles if the Proteas do well.


Mankad in the making

Ravichandran Ashwin's 'Mankad' of Jos Buttler during the Indian Premier League opened the debate again about whether such a method of dismissal is considered acceptable ("It's just not cricket"... except it actually is).

It had happened before to Buttler in international action, against Sri Lanka in an ODI in 2014, and considering how hard wickets are to come by in the 50-over format these days, teams may well be watching the non-striker's end with more interest than was previously the case.

Be careful, batsmen; stay within your territory or risk paying the consequences. There will be no sympathy for anyone caught jumping the gun when it comes to running between the wickets.


500 up!

Bat dominates ball to such an extent in the one-day game that it feels only a matter of time before a team breaks through the 500-run barrier.

England hold the current ODI record score at 481-6, set at Trent Bridge in 2018 against Australia. They also smacked 444-3 at the same venue against Pakistan three years ago, as a flat track and short boundaries in Nottingham -  a city forever linked with Robin Hood - robs from the bowlers and gives to the scoreboard.

So, in summary, Trent Bridge looks the likely venue to see 500 posted. England play there just once, though, taking on Pakistan on June 3.


Chris Gayle to take his time

You do not rush the 'Universe Boss'. The West Indies opener announced back in February that he will retire from one-day international duty after the tournament, allowing him a long, long goodbye on English soil.

Gayle is one of the cleanest hitters in cricket, yet often takes his time to get going before a boundary blitz.

The left-hander is also not one for quick singles, but spectators should soak up every opportunity they get to see him bat for West Indies before he gets back on the Twenty20 treadmill.


And finally... England to fall short again

Eoin Morgan's squad are rightly considered favourites - they are ranked the number one side in the world in the format and have the benefit of home advantage.

After a disastrous campaign Down Under last time, they changed their approach and set new standards, mainly when it comes to scoring runs. They have a long, powerful batting line-up and have depth in the seam-bowling department, aided by Jofra Archer's introduction.

And yet this is England at a World Cup (see: football, association).

They have lost three finals, in 1979, 1987 and 1992, when fancied to lift the trophy, while injuries in the build-up this time around have not helped preparations. The pressure is on to produce, yet their fans will have a nagging fear they will come up short again. It's not pessimism - it's what is known as being an Englishman.

Memphis Depay believes he is thriving under Ronald Koeman's guidance in the Netherlands team, as he prepares to face England in the last four of the Nations League Finals.

Depay has been an ever present since Koeman took charge in February 2018, scoring eight goals from 12 appearances in total.

Netherlands have impressed under former Everton and Southampton manager Koeman, who is reportedly a candidate to replace Ernesto Valverde at Barcelona.

And Lyon forward Depay - named in Oranje's 23-man squad to take part in the inaugural Nations League Finals in Portugal - believes his honest relationship with Koeman is one of the main factors behind his fine international form.

"We already had a good relationship, it feels good to me," Depay told Dutch publication AD.

"I like trainers who are honest and clear. And they understand that you don't have to give me full instructions, because I am a player who also needs freedom on the pitch.

"I can talk well with Koeman, but we don't always need words to understand each other. I like that.

"Am I an easier or more difficult person than before? I do not know. That depends on who I am dealing with.

"I have a strong character. I say it if something doesn't appeal to me. Not everyone likes that. You must be able to handle that. But I've learned, of course."

There were no big-name omissions from Netherlands' squad, with Koeman maintaining a similar group to that which he picked for March's Euro 2020 qualifiers against Belarus and Germany.

Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum will not join up with the side until after Saturday's Champions League final, while Ajax stars Matthijs de Ligt and Donny van de Beek have also been selected, along with Frenkie de Jong, who will join Barca on July 1.

Netherlands squad in full:  

Marco Bizot (AZ), Jasper Cillessen (Barcelona), Kenneth Vermeer (Feyenoord); Nathan Ake (Bournemouth), Daley Blind (Ajax), Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax), Stefan de Vrij (Inter), Denzel Dumfries (PSV), Hans Hateboer (Atalanta), Patrick van Aanholt (Crystal Palace), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool); Frenkie de Jong (Ajax, joining Barcelona), Marten de Roon (Atalanta), Davy Propper (Brighton and Hove Albion), Kevin Strootman (Marseille), Donny van de Beek (Ajax), Tonny Vilhena (Feyenoord), Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool); Ryan Babel (Fulham), Steven Bergwijn (PSV), Memphis Depay (Lyon), Luuk de Jong (PSV), Quincy Promes (Sevilla).

The creme de la creme will be involved in the Cricket World Cup, but there are plenty of talented players who will not feature when the tournament begins this week.

Each of the 10 nations involved in England and Wales named 15-man squads for the competition, which meant selectors faced some difficult decisions before settling on their chosen line-ups.

Here, with the help of Opta, we take a look at the best 11 players who will not be involved.

Niroshan Dickwella (Sri Lanka)

Sri Lanka's dreadful pre-World Cup form led to changes for this tournament and Dickwella was one of those to pay the price. He was out in single figures in all three of his innings against South Africa in March.

Opta fact: Despite his recent struggles, Dickwella has amassed more ODI runs (1,388) than any other Sri Lankan batsman since the start of 2017.

Imrul Kayes (Bangladesh)

Imrul has been out of the ODI picture since December having been dismissed for four and a duck against West Indies. Prior to that, though, he had accrued 349 across three innings against Zimbabwe, so there was some surprise he was deemed surplus to requirements.

Opta fact: Of the 124 men to have registered at least eight ODI innings in 2018, Imrul's average of 62.3 was the eighth-highest.

Rishabh Pant (India)

Dinesh Karthik, who turns 34 during the tournament, was preferred to Pant, 21, as back-up wicketkeeper to MS Dhoni. Given Karthik and Dhoni's advancing years, Pant's time will surely come but the explosive youngster is only on the standby list in 2019.

Opta fact: Pant has starred in the Indian Premier League, scoring the second-most runs (1,172) over the last two seasons behind only KL Rahul (1,252). Pant also claimed the most dismissals for a wicketkeeper (24) in this year's tournament.

Ambati Rayudu (India)

Rayudu had been earmarked for the number-four slot in India's batting line-up but lost out to Vijay Shankar due to the latter's 'three-dimensional' qualities. Rayudu had some fun with that, saying on Twitter that he had ordered "a new set of 3D glasses to watch the World Cup".

Opta fact: In his 35 ODI innings outside of India, Rayudu has averaged 47.4. Only Virat Kohli and Dhoni have better records among those to have played for the country as often.

Dinesh Chandimal (Sri Lanka)

Despite being his nation's captain as recently as six months ago, Chandimal was another high-profile Sri Lankan to be omitted. A regular throughout 2017 and 2018, Chandimal's last ODI century was in August 2016.

Opta fact: Chandimal has scored a half-century in four of his last six ODI innings in England and Wales.

Peter Handscomb (Australia)

Australia had to find a way to include Steve Smith and David Warner following their returns from bans, and wicketkeeper-batsman Handscomb was the unfortunate one to miss out despite starring in the duo's absence.

Opta fact: Prior to naming their preliminary squad, Handscomb had featured in 13 straight ODIs, scoring a century and three half-centuries while averaging 43.5.

Kieron Pollard (West Indies)

All-rounder Pollard has not played an ODI since October 2016 but many thought he might have been involved on the back of a fine IPL, when he helped Mumbai Indians to a record fourth title.

Opta fact: As well as averaging 49.2 across his final 11 innings in this year's IPL, Pollard has the experience of appearing in two previous World Cups (2007 and 2011).

Dwayne Bravo (West Indies)

It has been nearly five years since Bravo appeared in an ODI and he retired from international cricket in October 2018, but the all-rounder is still on the standby list having scored 2,968 runs and taken 199 wickets for the Windies in this format.

Opta fact: Only 21 men have scored over 2,500 ODI runs and claimed at least 150 wickets and Bravo is one of three West Indians to have done so - along with Chris Gayle and Carl Hooper.

David Willey (England)

Someone had to make way for the talented Jofra Archer and left-armer Willey, useful with bat and ball, was the unfortunate player to miss out. Willey has been a major part of England's recent white-ball success but, even in his absence, Eoin Morgan still has Archer, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood, Tom Curran, Liam Plunkett and Ben Stokes as seam options.

Opta fact: Since his debut in May 2015, no player has opened the bowling more often for England in ODIs than Willey (44 - level with Woakes)

Josh Hazlewood (Australia)

A back injury contributed to Hazlewood's absence from Australia's squad, though the seamer is expected to be in England later in the year for the Ashes series.

Opta fact: Hazlewood produced his best ODI figures in the last major tournament to take place in England - the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy - taking 6-52 against New Zealand.

Junaid Khan (Pakistan)

Included in the preliminary squad, Junaid was axed after disappointing in the warm-up series with England as the selectors went back to Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz. Having featured in 76 one-day games for his country, Junaid's experience will be missed.

Opta fact: Junaid has taken a wicket in each of his previous six ODI appearances in England and Wales.

Just over four years have passed since England's ODI side suffered one of their lowest moments with a humiliating group-stage exit from the 2015 Cricket World Cup.

An abject campaign in Australia and New Zealand saw England thrashed by both host nations and Sri Lanka, before defeat to Bangladesh sealed their elimination.

The primary problem was not hard to identify. 

England looked like a team stuck in the past as they frequently failed to score quickly enough with the bat, seemingly believing 300 still represented a healthy target even though far greater totals were being routinely tallied up by their rivals.

Fast forward to the present day and the situation could hardly be more different. Eoin Morgan, who took over as captain just before the doomed 2015 campaign, has overseen a remarkable transformation and his men will kick off this year's tournament on home soil as favourites to claim glory.

Ahead of their tournament opener against South Africa at The Oval on Thursday, we take a look at the statistics that spell out England's dramatic batting improvement in the 50-over game.

 

TEAM TOTALS TAKEN TO NEW HEIGHTS

Between the 2011 and 2015 World Cups, England's highest score with the bat was 325-4, while they only reached the 300 mark five times in 79 completed ODIs.

Since the 2015 tournament, England have surpassed 325 on 23 occasions  - often by a huge margin - and twice set a new world record in ODIs by improving on Sri Lanka's mammoth total of 443-9 against the Netherlands, which had stood as the benchmark for more than a decade.

Morgan's side plundered 444-3 versus Pakistan at Trent Bridge in 2016, before raising the bar considerably at the same venue last June with a scarcely believable tally of 481-6 against Australia.

Even accounting for the fact scoring rates as a whole have risen in the past four years, the development from England has been incredible. A team boasting the likes of Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler may fancy its chances of threatening 500 over the coming weeks.

 

MORE THAN TWICE AS MANY HUNDREDS

Unsurprisingly, England have been far more productive in terms of individual century-making during this period of heightened scoring.

In the four years leading up to the 2015 World Cup, England players managed a combined total of 20 ODI hundreds. Ten of those innings were compiled at quicker than a run a ball.

The figures since 2015 show another huge improvement, with the team piling up 48 tons, including 37 at quicker than a run a ball. 

Each of England's six fastest centuries have come since the last World Cup, with Jos Buttler responsible for the two quickest, reaching three figures off 46 and 50 deliveries respectively.

 

SMITH'S RECORD FINALLY TOPPED

England's highest individual score between the 2011 and 2015 World Cups came just before the latter tournament began, Ian Bell striking 141 against Australia in Hobart.

That innings has since been topped on five occasions, while Robin Smith's long-time England ODI record score of 167 has also been overhauled.

Alex Hales struck 171 as part of the aforementioned run-fest against Pakistan in 2016, before Roy thumped 180 in Melbourne last January versus Australia.

Hales, who accounts for three of England's 10 highest scores since the last World Cup, will play no part in this year's tournament after being axed from the squad, but England are still set to have two hugely dangerous openers at their disposal.

Roy will be partnered by Bairstow, a similarly aggressive batsman with seven ODI hundreds since September 2017.

England made light work of Afghanistan at The Oval in their final ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup warm-up match, Jason Roy hitting 89* from 46 balls in a thumping nine-wicket win. 

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