Eoin Morgan hopes the deciding one-day international against India at Headingley will go some way to replicating the winner-takes-all pressure of next year’s World Cup.
Morgan questioned the value of bilateral series because it can be difficult to manufacture the sort of situations that can occur in tournament play. So the match on Tuesday is the closest he will get to a scenario that could develop at the back-end of the round-robin stage of the World Cup – should England still need victories to quality – and certainly in the semi-finals and final if they reach that far.
Last year, England stumbled in the semi-final of the Champions Trophy, when they were beaten by Pakistan in Cardiff, having progressed out of their group unbeaten.
“I am not a huge fan of bilateral series – having a game like this is crucial for us,” Morgan said. “I prefer a tri-series and the context. Every game brings something different with significance on it.”
England have only played one ODI tri-series, a breed of competition that has largely died away since the early 2000s, in the last 12 years – involving Australia and India ahead of the 2015 World Cup.
Therefore, if teams want to test themselves with plenty on the line, they need to make the most of deciding matches in bilateral cricket when they occur.
Since the 2015 World Cup, after which England began their climb up the one-day rankings – they are now No. 1, a position they will retain regardless of this series result due to their victory at Lord’s – six series that have involved them have gone to a final match with the prize undecided (although against Pakistan in the UAE they were 2-1 up ahead of the final match).
In five series that have been locked at either 1-1 or 2-2 going into a deciding match, England have won three and lost two. Their most recent experience was successful, beating New Zealand by eight wickets in Christchurch earlier this year to take that series 3-2. The defeats in deciders came earlier in the development of this side, against Australia in 2015 and South Africa in 2016.
This series against India is one of the tougher challenges England’s powerhouse one-day side has faced over the last couple of years and is being viewed as a true test of their tag as World Cup favourites. Morgan acknowledged that being able to beat them would carry considerable weight.
“They are a really strong side, as we saw in periods [at Lord’s], and particularly at Trent Bridge, so to beat them in series would be quite significant – very significant.”
As they did in the T20 series, England learned quickly from a poor display against Kuldeep Yadav in the opening match, when he claimed 6 for 25. Although he took three wickets at Lord’s, he conceded 68 runs, as Joe Root scored an excellent century to anchor the innings after Morgan went against type by batting first.
“We started better against him,” Morgan said. “And the more we face him, the easier he got to pick. But you still have to play him well. I thought Joe was quite significant in that – his rotation of strike, his calm head.
“We emphasised the need to be clear on your plan and then sticking to it, and that’s what we did. Our plans are always about positive thinking, and we didn’t veer away from that.”
England have called James Vince into their squad for the deciding match, with Dawid Malan and Sam Curran released to play for England Lions against India A at New Road.