Jos Buttler (left) and Eoin Morgan have been the architects of England's resurgence in ODIs    Getty Images
Jos Buttler (left) and Eoin Morgan have been the architects of England’s resurgence in ODIs Getty Images

By the time this article is published, a bunch of English cricketers have bid adieu to their loved ones for another trip of India. Eoin Morgan will feature in that squad. Alastair Cook will not. India will have a new limited-overs captain. Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina will be back, as will be, much to the delight of an entire nation, their newfound cult hero Ashish Nehra (rarely mentioned with the ji suffix these days). India will obviously miss Rohit Sharma, the man who has fired for them at the top for some time now, and will have to remain content with Rohit s opening partner Shikhar Dhawan. Also featuring will be, among others, Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya the two men India had invested in a lot in 2016, albeit with mixed results.

But this is not about India. This is about England, probably the most improved team in limited-overs cricket since their unceremonious exit in the 2015 World Cup. The selectors made sure the side underwent a complete revamp, and met with reasonable success.

England had given out ODI caps to seven men that summer (to Zafar Ansari, Jason Roy, James Vince, David Willey, Mark Wood, Sam Billings, and Reece Topley), and to three others in 2016 (Liam Dawson, Jake Ball, and Ben Duckett).

On the other hand, several men from the old lot James Anderson, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Gary Ballance, and James Tredwell have never played after that unceremonious World Cup exit. Tim Bresnan and Steven Finn did not play after the summer that followed. Neither did Ansari (for no apparent reason), after his solitary appearance in a rain-affected match where he neither batted nor bowled.

Stuart Broad played ODIs in South Africa after he had dismantled the hosts in a Johannesburg Test. And the cruelty of life ended James Taylor s career before it blossomed.

With 5,416 runs, Bell leads the all-time England list by a considerable margin. Of active England cricketers, Morgan himself comes next, but at that stage he had scored fewer than 4,000 ODI runs, of which a shade above 3,000 is for England. Anderson held the top spot among wicket-takers, while Broad was third.

In other words, the selectors had been brutal when forming New England . And the results showed. In a year s time England came to within four sixes of winning the World T20 in conditions they are not used to.

And despite having several debutants, England have made the fewest changes over this period.

Against Test-playing nations, since May 2015
Team M Players Players/M
England

32

23

0.72

South Africa

27

24

0.89

New Zealand

32

29

0.91

Australia

33

30

0.91

Pakistan

25

31

1.24

Sri Lanka

28

36

1.29

Zimbabwe

23

31

1.35

India

24

33

1.38

Bangladesh

15

22

1.47

West Indies

17

25

1.47

There is no doubt that England have experimented the least once they found a nucleus despite replacing their core members with new ones. Of England s 23 men, 10 have played 20 or more matches; 11 have played 10 or fewer; and the other two have 15 and 14 respectively. The nucleus is there.

In ODIs, England have played 7 series and won 5. In the first of these defeats they came back from 0-2 to level the series before they were undone by John Hastings and Mitchell Marsh at Old Trafford. In the other, they squandered a 2-0 lead on South African soil. In other words, they have not exactly been thoroughly outplayed in a series. During this period they have played at home as well as in South Africa, UAE, and Bangladesh.

They have won 19 matches and lost 11 during this phase, which have given them a win-loss ratio of 1.73. Mind you, all their matches have come against Test-playing nations. How good has been this number?

ODI records (since May 2015)
Team M Won Lost W/L RR Econ NRR BFM BSM
England

32

19

11

1.73

6.25

5.73

0.52

26

25

South Africa

27

16

10

1.60

5.70

5.61

0.09

4

5

Australia

33

19

13

1.46

5.77

5.62

0.15

7

8

New Zealand

32

17

14

1.21

5.76

5.73

0.03

1

2

India

24

13

11

1.18

5.55

5.37

0.18

9

10

Bangladesh

15

8

7

1.14

5.33

5.09

0.24

12

14

Pakistan

25

12

12

1.00

5.65

5.59

0.06

3

3

Sri Lanka

28

10

14

0.71

5.32

5.78

-0.46

-23

-26

West Indies

17

4

12

0.33

5.14

5.47

-0.33

-17

-19

Zimbabwe

23

3

17

0.18

4.61

5.40

-0.79

-40

-51

BFM = Average margin of victory (runs) while batting first
BSM = Average margin of victory (balls left) while chasing

There are several things to be noted here.

1. Not only have England won more matches than any other side (against Test playing nations, if I may remind), they have also done it by a considerable margin.

2. England have gone for 5.73 runs an over. They have been more expensive than most other sides (in fact, only Sri Lanka have done worse).

3. However, England s batting run rate has been so spectacular (we are talking about a 32-match span here) that they have outdone everybody by a considerable margin.

In other words, India are likely to get their runs, but containing England may be their real challenge. It will not be easy for England: barring Bangladesh, no other side has been as economic as India during this period.

Not Pakistan or India or South Africa, it was England who beat Bangladesh 2-1 at home late last year. It was Bangladesh’s first defeat at home in two years.

Who have been England s most dangerous batsmen during this phase?

Top batsmen since May 2015 (qualification: 500 runs)
Player Team R Ave SR
Jos Buttler England 937 55.11 135
AB de Villiers South Africa 801 53.40 108
Quinton de Kock South Africa 1,219 53.00 105
Shoaib Malik England 920 54.11 105
David Warner England 1,532 63.83 105
Ben Stokes Australia 752 39.57 104
Jason Roy Pakistan 1,109 38.24 104
Matthew Wade Australia 684 31.09 103
Martin Guptill New Zealand 1,430 51.07 99
Mitchell Marsh Australia 787 41.42 99
Alex Hales England 1,132 43.53 98
Kusal Perera England 769 32.04 97
Joe Root is 18th, with 94, but he averages 57.85

Five Englishmen feature in the top 13. Of them, Jos Buttler has astonishing numbers. His strike rate is 25% more than anyone else in this phase. If he is removed from the equation, the difference between any pair is not as startling.

buttler
Buttler has been England’s most dangerous batsman post 2015 World Cup Getty Images

The fact that Buttler has achieved this at an average of 55 makes him even more spectacular. The only man to have averaged more on the above list is his teammate Roy (64).

By batting positions (against Test-playing nations since May 2015)
Team M 1-3 4-7 8-11
Ave SR Ave SR Ave SR
England

32

44.36

96

39.82

105

22.33

96

South Africa

27

43.78

92

36.48

94

16.27

73

Australia

33

41.89

92

34.51

93

15.33

85

New Zealand

32

46.17

94

29.19

88

18.43

92

Pakistan

25

38.87

88

40.88

92

18.69

91

India

24

57.09

88

31.20

92

10.52

74

Sri Lanka

28

33.49

89

32.38

81

15.48

83

Bangladesh

15

35.88

81

28.56

88

15.18

76

West Indies

17

24.62

72

29.59

83

11.58

94

Zimbabwe

23

29.23

70

25.17

80

10.06

61

Do note the above table. The England top three bat quicker than the top three of any other side, but the difference is not as staggering. In fact, South Africa and New Zealand have higher averages.

But it does not matter to England, for their next four are more explosive than the top three. This is also where the real difference in batting performances lies. No team comes within a 10-run limit of England. Hence, the tempo never falls. While New Zealand, Pakistan, and India (the bottom three on the table bat too slow) also have reasonable increases, England still has the highest rise. Remember, they already had a lead over anyone else for the top 3. This takes them to the next level, more so because they have an excellent average here as well.

Astonishingly, England s last four do a tremendous job as well, both in terms of average and strike rate. What does this mean?

England s top seven can accelerate at any point of time because they know that they bat up to 9, or even 10, at times. All these men are big hitters as well, which makes them the most formidable batting line-up.

In other words, England have taken full advantage of the batting-friendly new-generation limited-overs cricket. They have somehow managed to acquire a bunch of cricketers who can score big and score quickly.

What about bowling? The Englishmen do not stand a chance in front of the top ODI bowlers in the world. If one considers the likes of Sunil Narine (average 26.36, economy 4.19), and Imad Wasim (34 and 4.70), and Josh Hazlewood (25.23 and 4.77) the Englishmen do not feature anywhere in the horizon.

Of Englishmen, Moeen (5.11) has been the most economic bowler. Chris Woakes (5.22) has been the only other one with a sub-5.50 economy rate. We have already seen that England s collective economy rate is significantly inferior to most other sides.

ali-woakes
Post World Cup 2015, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes are the only bowlers with a sub-5.50 economy rate Getty Images

Is it about averages? Not quite, for while Mitchell Starc (23.38), Trent Boult (24.30), and John Hastings (24.86) all have sub-25 averages, along with several others on the right side of 30, England s best have been Adil Rashid (33.39) and Willey (33.71). The record has been ordinary, and that is an understatement.

And as for strike rate, no one has touched the 35-mark (Rashid is the best with 35.7). Contrast this with champions like Boult (27.2), Hastings (27.9), and Kagiso Rabada (28.8), and England do not feature anywhere.

How, then, do England win? They are aware of the fact that they do not have the strongest attack in the world. What are they doing right?

The answer is more than it meets the eye. Whenever a bowler has got into the groove, England have made sure they have bowled more. To attach a number to the more bit, an England bowler has been given at least 8 overs more frequently than any other team.

Bowlers (against Test-playing nations, since May 2015)

Team

M

I

>=8 overs

<8 overs

I/M

%W

%O

SR

4WIs

SR

4WIs

Bangladesh

15

50

29

1

57

0

3.3

81%

69%

Australia

33

119

34

5

40

1

3.6

80%

77%

South Africa

27

92

35

4

40

1

3.4

78%

75%

England

32

125

38

8

50

2

3.9

83%

79%

New Zealand

32

118

39

4

33

0

3.7

76%

79%

Pakistan

25

78

39

5

56

0

3.1

74%

66%

West Indies

17

57

40

1

45

0

3.4

74%

71%

India

24

93

40

4

30

0

3.9

74%

79%

Sri Lanka

28

65

43

1

38

0

2.3

55%

58%

Zimbabwe

23

66

55

1

75

0

2.9

71%

65%

I/M = #bowlers who have bowled >=8 overs/match
%W = % of wickets taken by these bowlers over this period
%O = % of overs bowled by these bowlers over this period

In every innings on an average, 3.9 England bowlers have sent down 8 or more overs (a count matched only by India). In other words, since England are aware that they cannot match other countries in three main parameters (average, strike rate, and economy), they have put faith on bowlers on a match-by-match basis.

In other words, successful bowlers (match-by-match) have bowled 79% of England s overs and have accounted for 83% of their wickets.

In other words, only 1 out of 6 wickets England have taken have fallen to bowlers who have not bowled long spells. For Australia and Bangladesh the count reads 1 out of 5; for New Zealand, Pakistan, West Indies, and India, 1 out of 4; and so on.

This somewhat explains England s 10 four-wicket hauls as well.

In other words, England have a top-to-bottom explosive batting line-up.

Some of these men are good bowlers with varying levels of consistency who can be excellent on some days and sub-par on others.

In most cases, a bowler gets a long spell if he bowls well. I should use longer here instead of long , since every team does that, but England relies on these bowlers more than other sides.

That is probably your best bet when you do not have the greatest of bowling attacks in the world.

However, even if they do concede runs, they have the firepower to chase it down more often than not.