Jos Buttler admitted his England side were “completely outplayed” after their World Cup title defence began with a crushing nine-wicket loss to New Zealand.

The 2019 champions were well beaten across all three facets by the Black Caps in Ahmedabad, with a mammoth stand of 273 between unbeaten centurions Devon Conway and Rachin Ravindra putting them away emphatically.

The pair’s poise and power put England’s 282 for nine firmly in the shade and there will be questions over soft top-order dismissals, patchy bowling and inconsistent fielding.

For a team who have repeatedly set the standard in white-ball cricket over the last eight years and hold both limited-overs titles, it was a chastening start to a long trek around India.

And Buttler made no attempt to sugarcoat the manner of the defeat.

“I’m disappointed. We were completely outplayed,” he said.

“I thought we were a long way short of our best with the bat, we were probably looking at 320, 330. We had a lot of starts but I thought we were just a bit off in our execution. We weren’t quite clinical enough with our shot making and gifted New Zealand a few wickets.

“But we’re not robots. Sometimes you don’t play as well as you would like. Everyone’s working hard, everyone’s prepared well and we were just a bit off it. In international cricket when you’re a little bit short and the opposition play very well, you’re going to lose the game of cricket.”

England are jetting straight off to the Himalayan mountain region of Dharamsala on Friday for their next group game against Bangladesh and, while they are sure to have plenty of doubts and misgivings to mull over on the journey, Joe Root urged them not to second guess themselves too much.

Root, who ended a run of indifferent ODI form with a measured knock of 77, insisted the result was not a dramatic setback to the wider ambitions. England lost key games on their way to winning the trophy in 2019 and also backed themselves into an early corner before lifting the T20 crown last year.

“It’s important that we stay calm. I don’t think there’s ever been a World Cup-winning side that hasn’t had a bump in the road or a stumble along the way,” he told BBC’s Test Match Special.

“Look at us in 2019, we had hiccups throughout that. We’ve just got to stay level and authentic to what we are as a team. When we do hit a bump in the road, we are a team that comes back strong and we double down on our identity as a team. So you can expect that when we get to Dharamsala.

“We’ve got to be able to withstand a bit of pressure, soak it up. We are aware of that, we know that is part and parcel of any World Cup journey. We’ve got evidence that our method works, because it has done over a long period of time so we’ve got to stay true to that.”

Root also channelled the ‘Bazball’ philosophy which has carried England’s Test team forward over the past 18 months, suggesting that the batting unit could respond to defeat by upping the ante and going even harder next time around.

“We won’t be seeing guys chipping it to mid-wicket or mid-off next game, they’ll be hitting it 20 rows back,” he said.

“That’s one example in a number of different areas where we can remind ourselves of how good we are and how intimidating we can be as a batting group. We want to double down on that, put sides under pressure and get those massive scores that blow teams away.”

England have reunited playmakers George Ford and Owen Farrell in their backline for Saturday’s final World Cup group match against Samoa in Lille.

They start together for the first time since the 2021 Six Nations as Steve Borthwick revives the creative axis that has excelled for England in the past as he assesses his options for the quarter-final.

Ford starts at fly-half having produced man-of-the-match displays against Argentina and Japan while Farrell shifts to inside centre to accommodate his rival for the 10 jersey.

Farrell needs two more points to become England’s highest scorer of all time, eclipsing the mark of 1,179 set by Jonny Wilkinson.

Manu Tuilagi is picked at 13 to provide a ball-carrying threat in what will be a special occasion for the Sale powerhouse, who faces the nation of his birth for the first time.

Joe Marchant is squeezed out of the midfield but finds a home on to the right wing, meaning there is no place for Henry Arundell despite his five-try haul against Chile.

Arundell drops out of the 23 altogether, as does Elliot Daly with Jonny May winning the race to start on the other wing as part of a back three that sees Freddie Steward replace Marcus Smith.

The urge to give Smith another run at full-back has been resisted but the rapid Harlequins ringmaster is poised to complete another cameo off the bench at Stade Pierre-Mauroy.

England are at full strength against Samoa and evidence of Ben Earl’s rise as a force on the Test stage is seen in his selection at number eight ahead of Billy Vunipola, who features on the bench.

Tom Curry is restored at openside after playing just 179 seconds against Argentina, at which point he was sent off for a dangerous tackle that resulted in a two-match ban which he completed against Chile.

A surprise pick in the front row sees Dan Cole preferred ahead of Kyle Sinckler at tighthead prop.

England qualified for the quarter-finals as Pool D winners on September 28 when Japan beat Samoa, allowing them to advance to a knockout appointment with likely opponents Fiji despite having a match to spare.

Borthwick said: “Whilst we are of course pleased with our results and qualification into the pool stages, we want to continue our improvement with a positive performance against a difficult and in-form Samoa team.

“Samoa are renowned for their physicality and this last game in the pool stages will be an excellent test for us as we continue in our World Cup journey.”

England’s World Cup defence began with a punishing nine-wicket defeat in Ahmedabad as New Zealand helped themselves to a slice of revenge four years in the making.

Organisers scheduled a repeat of the 2019 final to kick off this year’s tournament, but rather than a nail-biter to match the tension of that Lord’s classic, they had to settle for a thoroughly one-sided affair.

England needed a super over and a boundary countback to get their hands on the trophy last time around, but two majestic hundreds from Devon Conway and Rachin Ravindra meant the Black Caps romped home in the rerun with almost 14 overs to spare.

Conway finished 152 not out while his Wellington team-mate Ravindra reeled off an unbeaten 123 – more than double his previous ODI best.

The absence of Ben Stokes with a hip injury robbed the reigning champions of some middle-order firepower but their score of 282 for nine was nowhere near enough to constrain an outstanding Kiwi chase.

Where England relied on a composed innings of 77 from Joe Root, who managed four boundaries and a six while a series of unforced errors unfolded around him, Conway and Ravindra cut loose under lights.

Empty seats in the 134,000-capacity Narendra Modi Stadium could be tallied in the tens of thousands but the fans who did show up witnessed a remarkable stand of 273.

The pair came together in the second over after Sam Curran strangled Will Young down leg for a golden duck and proceeded to pile on 30 fours and eight sixes in a major statement of intent.

England, meanwhile, were chaotic with the bat, lethargic with the ball and sloppy in the field.

Put in to bat first they relied on Root to spare the blushes of his mis-firing top-order team-mates.

Dawid Malan was first to go for a scratchy 14, caught behind flashing hard at the impressive Matt Henry.

Jonny Bairstow (33) enjoyed a smoother start – including a flicked six off Trent Boult from the second ball of the day – but he offered a tame catch off Mitchell Santner just as he looked to take control.

Harry Brook, deputising for Stokes, also burned brightly and briefly. He clattered two fours and a six off Ravindra as he dropped three successive deliveries short, then lifted the next one straight down Conway’s throat at deep midwicket.

When Moeen Ali lost his off stump hacking across the line at Glenn Phillips, England had slipped to 118 for four, but a stand of 70 between Root and Buttler (43) offered some stability.

Root had unleashed a trademark reverse ramp for six off Boult early in his stay, but for the most part he played conservatively rather than looking dominate. Measured against the rest of his side, it was a cut above. Measured against the opposition, it was not enough.

He departed in the 42nd over, nutmegging and yorking himself in one swift movement as he tried to reverse sweep Phillips.

Chris Woakes set the tone for a chastening reply, kicking off with a half-volley that Conway gratefully stroked through cover and shipping 10 from his opening over.

Young’s cheap exit raised English spirits, however briefly, when he grazed a leg-side loosener from Curran into Buttler’s gloves but that merely brought the match-winners together.

Ravindra, promoted to number three for the first time in his ODI career, made an early target of Woakes as the experienced seamer served up a sequence of gentle four balls.

When England sought to reclaim control through the blunt pace of Wood, it only made things worse.

Conway drove his first ball straight past him for four before Ravindra peeled off a pair of lovely strokes, a swivel pull that raced flat through the night sky for six and a perfectly-timed punch through point on top of the bounce.

Wood looked rattled as he continued to crank up his speeds only for the ball to disappear with regularity, Conway eagerly showing off his prowess against the quick stuff.

By the end of the 10-over powerplay the Kiwis had roared to 81 for one, a clear 30 past England’s score at the same stage.

Ravindra had Moeen in his sights now, clubbing him for six in each of his first two overs, and even the arrival of Adil Rashid’s leg-spin could not slow things down.

Stokes emerged from the dugout to deliver some words of encouragement at the first drinks break but, even at that stage, it seemed too late.

The required rate continued to come down as both men reached celebrated centuries, Conway first over the line but Ravindra one ball quicker in just 82.

The closing stages of the chase were a procession, with runs flowing at will and a weary England side barely able to contain them before the finishing touches came off the second ball of the 37th over.

England manager Gareth Southgate is hoping for a positive update on Bukayo Saka after selecting the Arsenal star despite fears over his fitness.

Having failed to finish the matches against Tottenham and Bournemouth, the 22-year-old again left the field early in Tuesday’s 2-1 Champions League defeat at Lens.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta admitted afterwards that it “didn’t look good” for Saka, yet the forward was still named in Southgate’s 26-man squad two days later.

The England boss is awaiting news on the national team’s back-to-back men’s player of the year and has not given up on him being available for this month’s double-header against Australia and Italy.

“He’s still being assessed,” Southgate said of Saka, who faces a race to be involved for Arsenal against Manchester City on Sunday before attention turns to international matters.

“Obviously, they’ve got a big game this weekend and then there’s another seven days before we play Australia and 10 days before we play Italy as well.

“So, everybody will monitor everything as we go forward.”

England could wrap up their place at Euro 2024 this month, with the Wembley qualifier against Italy following their friendly under the arch against Australia.

Uncapped Levi Colwill and Eddie Nketiah got the nod along for the October fixtures, while Ollie Watkins received his first call-up since March 2022 and Jarrod Bowen returned for the first time since that September.

But there was no place for Mason Mount, James Ward-Prowse or Raheem Sterling, with the latter having not added to his 82 caps since the 2022 World Cup.

Asked if he spoke to Chelsea forward Sterling like he did last month, Southgate said; “No, we spoke before the last squad.

“As I said, we’ve been happy with the wide players and the performances in the last four games, in particular, and the two in March. The team are playing really well, so clearly there’s some stability there.

“We have added Jarrod Bowen in those wide areas – I mean, he scored five in seven games, he’s playing really well.

“With the Australia game as well, there’s an opportunity to learn some different things as well.”

On Watkins, who Southgate saw score a hat-trick for Aston Villa against Brighton at the weekend, he said: “There’s a little bit with Callum Wilson as well, so he’s carrying an injury.

“Not certain he’d be available. Ollie has started the season well. He’s hit a bit of scoring form in the last couple of weeks.

“You have to be careful with that because you can’t just go on recency bias when you’re looking at selection, but he is in good form.

“He’s obviously coming in on a high and he’s been with this before.

“We know his character, we know his personality. He’s a good guy around the around the group.

“Team are playing well, he’s playing for a club that are really well coached and the team are in a good moment.”

Ben Chilwell and Eberechi Eze join Wilson in missing this month’s matches through injury, while Harry Maguire, Jordan Henderson and Kalvin Phillips retain their place despite questions over their spots.

John Stones returned having missed a September camp that ended with a 3-1 win in Scotland, who are vying with England for Elliot Anderson’s international future.

The 20-year-old left the last Scottish camp after two days following his first call-up to the full squad and last week indicated he wanted more time to consider his international future.

“I haven’t (spoken to him),” Southgate said of the Newcastle talent. “I mean those things (Football Association technical director) John McDermott deals with that, really.

“So, I think we’re the same as Steve. We’re respectful that those sorts of decisions are big decisions and we don’t want to pressure anybody.

“We like Elliot, we think he’s a very good player, got high potential.

“He’s obviously at a club that are absolutely flying, so, yeah, we’ll just have to wait and see.

“But we’re very much respectful that if he needs time to think that through we completely understand.”

Joe Root rose to the occasion as England kicked off their World Cup defence by posting 282 for nine against New Zealand in a tightly-fought tournament opener in Ahmedabad.

The competition got under way with a repeat of the 2019 final, featuring 11 survivors from that classic encounter, but only a small proportion of the 134,000 seats at the cavernous Narendra Modi Stadium were filled to witness the clash.

Root, England’s top run-scorer four years ago, banished a run of indifferent form to carve out 77 from 86 balls and the reigning champions would have been lost without his class and composure at number three.

With Ben Stokes’ hip injury leaving a conspicuous gap in the middle order, England’s top order was swept aside all too easily.

Dawid Malan never came to terms with conditions after England were sent in to bat, Jonny Bairstow and Stokes’ deputy Harry Brook both gave away promising starts and Moeen Ali’s promotion to five was a gambit that blew up quickly.

England did not really settle until Root was joined by captain Jos Buttler in a fifth-wicket stand of 70, but when the latter was prised out by the impressive Matt Henry the pressure was back on.

Root accumulated calmly as the mistakes piled up around him, scoring four boundaries and one jaw-dropping reverse ramp for six, but he could not steer the innings home and was bowled through his legs with more than eight overs left.

Bairstow got the 48-match tournament off and running in style when he flicked Trent Boult’s second ball for a nonchalant six over square leg, but there was enough assistance in the pitch to ensure bat did not dominate for long.

Malan, newly installed as England’s first choice opener after usurping Jason Roy, eked out 14 in 24 deliveries before edging Henry behind attempted to hit his way into touch.

Bairstow (33) enjoyed a smoother start but just as he looked to be asserting himself, he failed to commit to a checked drive and lifted a gentle catch down the ground.

Root produced his party piece when he switched his hands to Boult and flipped him over the wicketkeeper’s head and into the stands and when Brook went after Rachin Ravindra’s first over the momentum appeared to be shifting.

Three successive drag downs disappeared for four, four, six but Brook succumbed looking for more of the same, picking out Devon Conway as he patrolled the midwicket boundary.

Moeen was sent in next, ahead of schedule, but lost his off stump to an ugly hack at Glenn Phillips.

Root and Buttler stabilised things through the middle overs, picking their moments to attack, but New Zealand stuck to the task. Henry returned to pick up Buttler’s edge for 43, leaving Root with plenty still to do at 188 for five.

A first hundred since the last World Cup would have done the trick but Root got his angles wrong as he aimed a reverse sweep at Phillips, yorking and nutmegging himself in the same act.

All-rounders Liam Livingstone (20) and Sam Curran (14) came and went before a 30-run cameo from the last-wicket pair of Mark Wood and Adil Rashid added some gloss to the English effort.

England are ready to kick off their World Cup defence with a rerun of their 2019 final victory against New Zealand, but returning hero Ben Stokes has emerged as an injury doubt for the opening game.

The lure of repeating the tournament triumph of four years ago was enough to draw Stokes out of ODI retirement after a year away from the format, but he may be confined to a watching brief in Ahmedabad.

While England fans will be glad to hear there are no signs of his long-term knee problems flaring up, skipper Jos Buttler revealed the 32-year-old has been struggling with soreness in his left hip in recent days.

He was the only member of the 15-strong squad not to play some part in this week’s warm-up win over Bangladesh, meaning he has not featured since scoring a new national record of 182 against the Black Caps on September 13.

Stokes joined his team-mates for their final training session under lights at the Narendra Modi Stadium – which is not expected to fill even half of its gargantuan 132,000 capacity – but was little more than a bystander.

He spent some time in the indoor gym but did not bat. Given the lengthy nature of the competition, which spans nine group games over six weeks, it seems highly unlikely that England would gamble with their prized asset at such an early stage.

“He’s got a slight niggle with his hip, but fingers crossed that it’ll be good news for us. We’ll see,” said Buttler.

“We’ll make the right call. If he’s not fit to play, he’s not fit to play. It’s not the time to take big risks on someone at the start of the tournament. Nearer the end, maybe you do take more of a risk with people’s injuries but it’s going to be a long tournament.”

Buttler is looking to repeat the career-defining achievement of his predecessor Eoin Morgan by lifting the trophy, but distanced himself from the notion of a title ‘defence’.

For a side who have rebuilt their entire philosophy around an aggressive mindset, it is a term he is more than happy to banish.

“I don’t see us as defending champions. We’re not defending anything. I want us to attack so I don’t like the word defending,” he said.

“For us it’s irrelevant. It certainly is for me. It’s fantastic to be reigning champions and I won’t say we’ve left that behind completely because it’s a nice place to be, but you’ve given that trophy back now. It’s done.

“It’s about trying to create something new. There’s always a desire for more, a hunger for more. We wouldn’t be here if we were content with what we’ve done.”

Stokes’ likely absence could open the way for Harry Brook to make his World Cup debut, a remarkable shift in fortunes for a player who was omitted from the original squad only to edge out Jason Roy at the eleventh hour.

Jos Buttler wants his England side to throw off the tag of ‘defending’ champions at the World Cup, insisting attack is the only thing on their mind in India.

Buttler remains fiercely proud of the 2019 triumph but has made it clear that the four-year-old title carries little weight once the tournament gets under way on Thursday, when England take on New Zealand in a repeat of the previous final.

The attachment to the trophy-winning side is clear – with eight of that squad on duty once again here and a ninth, Jofra Archer, in tow as a travelling reserve – but the captain is eager to draw a clear line under the past.

And that starts with banishing unhelpful terminology.

“I don’t see us as defending champions. We’re not defending anything. I want us to attack so I don’t like the word defending,” he said.

“It may be a motivation for certain teams when they’ve been in that position, but for us it’s irrelevant. It certainly is for me.

“It’s fantastic to be reigning champions and I won’t say we’ve left that behind completely because it’s a nice place to be, but you’ve given that trophy back now.

“It’s done. It’s about trying to create something new. We must be hungry to do it again and try to be focused on something different.

“I think the hunger is there. For most professional sports people, there’s always a want for more, there’s always a desire for more, a hunger for more.

“We wouldn’t be here if we were content with what we’ve done and you’re always excited for the new challenge.”

Buttler was the man who applied the finishing touch that secured England’s first World Cup at Lord’s, completing the run out that separated the two teams on the now defunct boundary countback rule, before taking over as captain for last year’s T20 success in Australia.

Having unified both white-ball crowns, the next seven weeks offer an opportunity to make it three global trophies in the space of four years.

That would be the kind of legacy to put England’s golden generation up with the very best there has been and Buttler is happy to be held to such high standards.

“We’re all dreamers and we all want to be able to say those things,” he said.

“It’s a nice place to be as an English sports team that fans expect you to do well and we’ll try our best for the fans back home and those that make it out here.

“I think the biggest thing is we know we are a team who like being in that position of having expectations on us.

“It’s a great place to be, I’d rather be there than a non-fancied side that nobody thinks has a chance.

“We’ve got some of the best players in the world in our team – that gives us a great chance.”

How much further the current team can take their story is open to debate. There are 11 thirtysomethings in the current squad of 15, including five who will be 34 by the end of the month.

A raft of retirements at the end of the World Cup would hardly be a huge surprise ahead of a new four-year cycle.

“We know we are an older squad than some and that should be a feather in everyone’s cap because of how professional we are to be playing to the standard we are at this age,” Buttler said.

“Age is not the defining factor – and we don’t need to add pressure by saying this is the last one – but I think it’s quite obvious with a few people being where they are at in their careers and the next ODI World Cup being four years away.

“But we’ll do our thing, we always try and enjoy the pleasure of playing for England. It’s a team that’s been together a long time and there’s some great friendships there and this World Cup is part of that story.

“We’ll try and make more great memories and cherish every moment as team-mates, friends and colleagues.”

Ben Stokes has emerged as an injury doubt for England’s World Cup curtain-raiser against New Zealand on Thursday, with a sore hip placing question marks over his place.

Stokes reversed his year-long retirement from ODI cricket in order to help defend the title he helped secure in 2019, despite concerns over his long-term fitness.

The 32-year-old has been struggling with a chronic knee condition in recent years and was selected as a specialist batter for the tournament after deciding to spare his body the rigours of bowling.

But on the eve of the opening match at the cavernous Narendra Modi Stadium, the biggest cricket venue on the planet with a capacity of more than 130,000, he was still being assessed.

Stokes has not played since smashing 182 against the Black Caps on September 13 and was the only squad member to play no part in this week’s warm-up victory over Bangladesh.

Captain Jos Buttler, speaking ahead of his side’s final training session, said: “He’s got a slight niggle with his hip, but fingers crossed that it’ll be good news for us. We’ll see.

“He’s working hard with the physios and we’ll know more when the guys arrive for training.

“We’ll make the right call. If he’s not fit to play, he’s not fit to play. If he is, we can make that decision.

“It’s not the time to take big risks on someone at the start of the tournament. Nearer the end, maybe you do take more of a risk with people’s injuries but it’s going to be a long tournament.”

Reece Topley is ready to play the long game as he looks to put his World Cup woes behind him, but the seamer admits England’s interrupted preparations have left him “undercooked”.

England get their title defence under way in Ahmedabad on Thursday when they face New Zealand in a replay of the 2019 final, but their lead up to that curtain-raiser has been less than straightforward.

A 38-hour trip to their warm-up base in Guwahati was branded “utter chaos” by Jonny Bairstow, before their first practice match against India was rained off without a ball being bowled.

They were able to get some game time in against Bangladesh on Monday, but their four-wicket win came in a game reduced to 37 overs and none of their bowlers delivered more than five.

That is a light load to take into a flagship fixture, but for Topley simply arriving at the Narendra Modi Stadium fit for duty would be a success of sorts.

Little over a year ago, just days before the start of the T20 World Cup in Australia, he tripped on a boundary sponge and was ruled out of a tournament England went on to win.

“If anything I would say that I’m pretty undercooked, but going into a long tournament I don’t necessarily think that is the worst thing,” the left-armer said after tuning up with a three-wicket haul.

“I feel like I’m just about to come into my stride, hopefully. It’s not about tearing in at the warm up game and impressing the right people, it is about delivering in the nine group games.

“That last group game is still pretty far away so I feel like I’m where I should be, but there is still some work to be done for sure.

“After missing the first game due to the weather it was good for us to be able to get out on the field and for people to get what they needed from the experience which is a positive outcome.

“We’ve all been doing our training after having a couple of weeks without matches so it is nice to get back in the groove with playing in the middle and it helps to assess what you still need to work on before that first proper match.”

Topley, who has lost long spells of his career due to injury problems, has spoken openly about the trauma of his late withdrawal from last year’s trophy-winning side and has been doing everything in his power to avoid a repeat. Mercifully, his luck has held so far.

“I’ve been steering clear of any mishaps and playing it quite safe, and I’ll continue to do so ahead of the first game,” he said.

“Obviously I don’t want any repeat of what was so gutting last year in Brisbane at the T20 World Cup. It was a tough period to go through and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone because these are the moments and the events that you dream of being a part of and playing your part in.

“Hopefully I can play my part this year and make up for lost time if anything and make a contribution to England going all the way again. I’m looking forward to getting some game time, just as I was anticipating last year, and this time hopefully I can help the team retain the trophy.”

There is stiff competition for places among the England bowling ranks, with Topley joining Chris Woakes, Mark Wood, David Willey, Sam Curran and Gus Atkinson in a well-stocked pace attack.

England expect it to be a group effort in India, with a draining schedule that involves new venues and internal flights for every group match, but everyone has their eye on the opening match as the first signs of a pecking order emerge.

“I think everyone is fighting for a spot in that final XI. You’ve just got to do all you can to put your case forward to feature in that side,” Topley explained.

“I felt like I gave a good account of myself in the run out. Whatever 11 they end up picking, the whole squad is right behind each other, it is going to take a squad effort to be successful out here and the side that goes out in each match will continue to live up to the exciting way we play our cricket.”

The World Cup gets under way on Thursday with the status of one-day internationals dwindling as Twenty20 continues to take precedence.

England have played fewer ODIs heading into this tournament than for any World Cup in almost 30 years and here, the PA news agency looks at the changing nature of the international calendar.

Has the ODI bubble burst?

The first two World Cups, in 1975 and 1979, were played with ODIs barely yet an established format – the first fixture took place on January 5, 1971 but only 53 were played all decade outside of those tournaments.

Post-1979, England’s 42 ODIs in the four-year cycle leading up to this World Cup marks their third-lowest total and their fewest since the 1996 tournament, when they had played only 38 in between World Cups. They played 40 leading up to 1983.

The picture is similar for the other leading ODI nations, with India’s 66 ODIs also their third-lowest in a World Cup cycle in that time and exceeding the four-year periods up to 1996 (63) and 1983 (27).

Australia’s 44 is their lowest excluding the 1970s tournaments, with 64 leading up to the 1983 World Cup and at least 75 on every other occasion since.

The four-year cycle was briefly broken by a switch to even-numbered years in the 1990s. There were five years between the tournaments in 1987 and 1992 and only three up to 1999, when the regular pattern was re-established.

Twenty20 vision

The decline of the 50-over game has been brought about by the rise of the shortest format and this cycle is the first time T20 internationals have made up the largest share of England’s fixtures.

With 68 games, excluding those abandoned without a ball bowled, T20 accounts for 40.8 per cent of England’s games since the 50-over World Cup final against New Zealand on July 14, 2019.

They have played 58 Tests in that time (34.3 per cent) and only 42 ODIs (24.9 per cent), the lowest share of England’s fixtures for the latter format since the years leading up to the 1975 World Cup when they played 50 Tests to 17 ODIs.

T20 was only introduced for the first time in 2005 and made up just 2.8 per cent of England’s games between the 2003 and 2007 World Cups. That had jumped to 20.4 per cent in the next cycle and has doubled in the years since.

Feeling the squeeze

With all three formats battling for their place in the calendar, something has to give.

Ben Stokes, the hero of England’s 2019 World Cup win, shockingly announced his retirement from the format last year with a warning that “there is too much cricket rammed in for people to play all three formats now”.

He has returned for this World Cup – but as a specialist batter, with knee problems inhibiting his bowling – but his prolonged absence hinted at a wider trend.

Eight of the 2019 World Cup-winning squad also appear in the group this time around – captain Jos Buttler, Stokes, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood.

They had played an average of 74.1 per cent of England’s games between the 2015 and 2019 tournaments, with Rashid at 94.3 per cent, but none have even reached that average mark in the years since.

Moeen’s 73.8 per cent is the leading figure, with the average down to 48.8. Wood has played just 19 per cent, below even Stokes’ 31 per cent.

England became the first host nation to be knocked out of the Rugby World Cup at the group stage after losing 33-13 to Australia on this day in 2015.

Stuart Lancaster’s side had gone into the tournament on home soil with plenty of ambition to reclaim the World Cup they had famously won for the first time Down Under in 2003.

But those hopes were crushed on a damning night at Twickenham as the Wallabies cruised to a 20-point win to send England crashing out at the earliest stage possible.

England were in danger of exiting the tournament a week after they twice squandered a 10-point lead against Wales to lose 28-25 in Pool A, making this game a must-win encounter.

Victory over the Welsh would have seen England through to the knockout stages but they lost that match and were then ultimately outclassed by Australia’s brilliance, including an excellent performance from fly-half Bernard Foley.

The two teams exchanged early penalties but the Australians soon turned the screw, Israel Folau flying over the whitewash in the 20th minute and then again five minutes before half-time, with Foley’s conversions giving the Wallabies a 17-3 lead.

Another Foley penalty pushed England further towards the exit door and although an Anthony Watson converted try and an Owen Farrell kick pulled it back to 20-13, Farrell’s loss to the sin-bin alongside two Foley penalties put Australia further in charge before Matt Giteau dived over to rub salt into English wounds.

England’s failure to reach the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time prompted Lancaster’s departure after a review just weeks later.

He said: “I ultimately accept and take responsibility for the team’s performance.”

After knocking England out, the Wallabies made it all the way to the final, but fell short of glory after they suffered a bruising 34-17 defeat to arch rivals New Zealand.

Courtney Lawes insists England have forged an identity based on self-sacrifice as the personalities of the World Cup heavyweights begin to emerge.

England have crushed Argentina, Japan and Chile to claim a quarter-final place as Pool D winners with a match to spare and their procession through the group phase will be completed against Samoa on Saturday.

Expectation is rising, even allowing for the fact they have been gifted the easiest route into the knockout phase, but the likes of Ireland, South Africa and New Zealand have been making greater waves.

After the All Blacks’ 14-try rout of Italy on Friday, head coach Ian Foster made a pointed reference to the grinding nature of Ireland’s seismic victory over the Springboks.

“If you look at the South Africa-Ireland game, it was a different game of rugby,” Foster said.

“The ball was in play for 27 minutes throughout the whole game. It was a very stop-start game, very physical, very combative.

“You saw a different spectacle from us and at some point the world has got to decide which game it would rather watch.”

Lawes sees room for all playing styles and is satisfied with the traits developed by Steve Borthwick’s side.

“Our way is the England way. Doing it our way is doing it for each other,” the Northampton back row said.

“I like that it’s now really obvious what is every team’s DNA and what they’re trying to do. All the top teams have got really different genetics as a team, if you will – a team strategy.

“It’ll be interesting when they play each other how that is going to play off. I think that’s really good for us as players to see and be a part of.

“We’re a really strong defensive team. That’s our backbone. We’ve conceded one try in three games. We’re an aerial, kicking team and are very good at getting the ball back.

“We’re looking to build an attack off that, and hopefully by the time we get later on in the tournament that is where we want to be, and we will show a bit of a different side to us.

“Especially at the 2019 World Cup and this time, in terms of a team of players, we are so much more selfless.

“We want to play, we want to go out there and put our bodies on the line for each other and that is what really makes a difference when it hits the fan and you are under the cosh.

“You have got to want to get into it for each other or you get found out pretty quickly.

“We know what works, we want everybody to buy in, we do this for each other, not for ourselves.

“We hit a ruck and forego the glory so we can get the ball and someone else can score.

“Those are the things we pride ourselves on as a team and what we want to carry on into the future as well.”

The sheen may have faded from ODIs in recent years but the 50-over World Cup remains cricket’s most prestigious title.

Ahead of the latest event getting under way in India on Thursday, the PA news agency looks at what topics are up for discussion.

World Cup remains a draw despite waning interest in ODIs

The conveyor belt of T20 franchise leagues being churned out is putting the squeeze on like never before and it is the middle format especially that is feeling the pinch. Former Australia captain Ian Chappell last week admonished administrators for neglecting ODIs in favour of T20s while India great Sachin Tendulkar said earlier this year the 50-over format was getting “boring” and “predictable”. The importance of bilateral ODI series may continue to dwindle but conversely the World Cup remains the crown jewel, as demonstrated by England’s Ben Stokes ending his retirement for one more shot at glory.

No West Indies, no party

There will be a distinct lack of Caribbean flair this year as the West Indies, winners of the first two events in 1975 and 1989, were unable to qualify. Full member nations Zimbabwe and Ireland also miss out but it is the absence of the Windies that will be felt the most. They bear a lot of responsibility after failing first in the 2021-23 World Cup Super League then at a separate qualifying tournament in June. But while other sports encourage growth and expand its global events, cricket has shrunk to a 10-team World Cup for its last two editions. A return to a 14-team set-up is planned from 2027.

England at the double?

England prevailed by the barest of all margins four years ago – although the boundary countback rule has been abolished and, now, there will be further super overs until a winner emerges. Despite Eoin Morgan standing down, Jos Buttler oversaw a more formulaic triumph in the 2022 T20 World Cup, meaning England will have a target on their backs. They have brought along eight members of the 2019-trophy winning side, plus the rehabilitating Jofra Archer as a travelling reserve, while an average of 31.4 has seen them labelled ‘Dad’s Army’ in some quarters. Experience, though, is rarely a bad thing and England retaining their crown would mark them out as one of the greatest white-ball sides in history.

India v Pakistan

The marquee occasion of the tournament that carries the weighty tagline of attracting up to one billion viewers. As they have not faced each other in a bilateral match since 2013 amid fraught relations between the two nations, any meeting now takes on extra significance. Witness last year’s T20 World Cup showdown, when Virat Kohli produced arguably his magnum opus to get India home in front of 90,000 frenzied fans at the MCG. While the players are said to be friendly with each other, Pakistan faced a delay – having to cancel a trip to Dubai – before securing their visas earlier this week. They have now arrived into India – can Pakistan spoil the party at Ahmedabad on October 14?

Missing pace aces

India, and the sub-continent as a whole, is historically not a happy hunting ground for pacemen but there will be enough variety in the pitches and conditions for all types of bowlers to thrive. However, South Africa pair Anrich Nortje and Sisanda Magala, Pakistan’s Naseem Shah and Sri Lanka’s Dushmantha Chameera are high-profile quicks who will miss out. There is no guarantee Archer, England’s super over hero, will get any game time while team-mate Mark Wood has not bowled competitively since July. India’s Jasprit Bumrah is also still feeling his way back to his best after a year on the sidelines. Niggles, knocks and injuries are sure to strike at some point in the six-and-a-half-week campaign and countries will have to be on their guard amid exacting travel schedules that may stretch bodies and minds.

Maro Itoje has emerged from a difficult period of his career confident that he can reach new levels of performance as England progress deeper into the World Cup.

Itoje revealed during this year’s Six Nations that he had been suffering from an underlying health issue – the details of which are undisclosed – that had impacted his conditioning.

It explained the below-par displays being delivered by one of England’s world-class operators as, although he held his own on the field, he was not the dominant force that had taken the game by storm.

But having benefited from the fitness work completed during squad’s World Cup training camp, there was evidence in his starts against Argentina and Japan that the 28-year-old second row is on the rise once more.

“I don’t think one is ever fully happy, no-one is every fully content with anything, but it’s definitely better being able to express myself physically,” Itoje said.

“During that period where it was a little bit more difficult to do that, it was a little bit more challenging.

“I had issues going on in the background which affected my ability to exercise and perform.

“And once we were able to get all those things aligned, I was able to naturally have a response from the training that I was doing.

“Having a beneficial response from the rigorous activity has allowed me to perform and play better.

“There’s no top player across any sport – whether that’s rugby, football, basketball, whatever – who has a plain sailing career, or a career that goes exactly how they wanted it.

“You can speak of any of the greats and they will probably say ‘I wish I didn’t do that’, or ‘I wish I’d done that differently’.

“I guess that whole period for me was my version of that, where I had something structurally wrong and I didn’t know it was structurally wrong until I was quite deep into it.

“To be able to persevere through that period and finally get a fix for that was great. But I personally still feel there’s a lot more to go and a lot more that I can contribute in a positive manner for this team and in this tournament.”

England have reached the quarter-finals as Pool D winners with a match to spare after Japan toppled Samoa on Thursday night.

 

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It continues encouraging progress through the World Cup that began with victory over Argentina despite all but three minutes of the match being played with 14 men because of Tom Curry’s red card.

Itoje excelled amid England’s act of defiance against their closest group rivals, who were routed 27-10 in Marseille, but the two-time Lions tourist insists there is more to come.

“It’s funny because people after the game thought I’d played well. I thought I played alright, I don’t think I played as well as what people were telling me,” he said.

“And that’s probably because I know where I can be if I’m properly firing on all cylinders.

“The games have been a step in the right direction for me but I’m not satisfied with that, I think there’s another level for me to get to.

“So hopefully Samoa and by God’s grace the rest of the tournament will be an opportunity for me to express that.”

Jos Buttler believes the weight of history suggests India are clear-cut favourites to win the World Cup on home soil despite England’s considerable experience of the conditions.

Staging the showpiece in recent years has come with a distinct advantage as the last three editions – India in 2011, Australia in 2015 and England in 2019 – have all been won by the host nation.

England may be double world champions, but even a side that turbocharged the white-ball formats have fallen short in India, losing keenly contested ODI and T20 series both in early 2017 and spring 2021.

While Buttler is bullish about England’s fortunes, he rates an India side that have won 14 of their last 16 ODI series on their own patch as well as the Asia Cup earlier this month as the team to beat.

“The clear favourites are India,” Buttler told the PA news agency. “You only have to look at the past few World Cups – England won in England, Australia won in Australia and India won in India before that.

“History tells you that it’s quite advantageous to be the home nation and they’re obviously a brilliant team. In their own conditions, India are fantastic. I certainly see them as favourites.

“We’re going out there to try to win a World Cup – we don’t see ourselves as defending champions. It’s very much a new tournament and we know it’s going to be tough because there are some top, top teams.

“But we know we’re a really good team, a dangerous team, we’ve got a lot of experience in the group and we back ourselves.”

England have arrived in Guwahati ahead of three warm-ups which will act as final preparation for the tournament opener against New Zealand – a rematch of the 2019 final – in Ahmedabad next Thursday.

Their 15-strong squad contains eight members of the side that went all the way four years ago, while Gus Atkinson is an outlier as the only one who has not featured in the Indian Premier League.

A number of others including Buttler, an IPL regular since 2016, have substantial knowledge of what to expect in India which England’s limited-overs captain hopes they can exploit.

Speaking to promote England’s official kit supplier Castore extending its ‘summer of sport’ campaign to highlight key occasions such as the World Cup, Buttler said: “It gives you a sense of familiarity.

“A lot of the cricket grounds we’ll play at, guys will have played there and know the surroundings. They will understand the pitches and conditions, more so than if they’d not been there before.

“There’s a lot of other teams that have that advantage as well with guys playing a lot of IPL cricket, it’s been around for quite a few years now so everyone’s accustomed to playing in India in that sense.”

Jofra Archer will be England’s only travelling reserve as he completes his rehabilitation from the latest stress fracture in his right elbow that ruled him out of the entire summer schedule.

He will not be ready to make his return until at least the latter stages of the tournament, raising the prospect of him making a dramatic comeback if injury strikes one of England’s quick bowlers.

While England are cautious over rushing back the bowler who was entrusted with the super over that led to them being crowned world champions for the first time, Buttler is delighted to have Archer in tow.

“He’s someone who will go on and have so much impact for England,” Buttler added. “Everyone is hopeful this will be the end of his injuries and we can see him back on the park more consistently.

“He’s such a superstar, you want to see these guys perform, he’s someone who puts bums on seats.”

:: Jos Buttler was speaking to promote Castore, the official kit suppliers of the England cricket team, investing in an extension to its national brand marketing campaign. For more information, visit https://castore.com

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