England will put four years of planning to the test when they face South Africa in the opening match of the 2019 World Cup at the Oval on Thursday.
So embarrassing was England’s first-round exit at the 2015 edition in Australia and New Zealand it prompted a major rethink of their attitude to the white-ball game.
The transformation has been remarkable, with Eoin Morgan’s men climbing to the top of the one-day international rankings and twice setting a new record for the highest one-day international total, which now stands at 481 for six.
South Africa coach Ottis Gibson is convinced the pressure is all on the tournament hosts and cited comments by England quicks Stuart Broad and James Anderson — both of whom no longer play ODI cricket — as an example.
“I heard somewhere that my two very good friends Broad and Anderson have said that England will have to do something really bad not to win this World Cup,” recalled Gibson, who knows the pair well from his time as England bowling coach.
“As far as they are concerned England have won it already.”