Cricket: five reasons England now look like world-beaters
England put New Zealand to the sword for the second time this summer - what is going on?
England's extraordinary metamorphosis from one-day cricket chumps to swashbuckling superstars continued as they demolished World Cup finalists New Zealand for a second time this summer to level the current series 2-2 at Trent Bridge.
Set an imposing target of 350 to win the game, England put the Kiwi bowlers to the sword, reaching their target with six overs remaining and for the loss of just three wickets. It was the fourth-highest successful run chase in one-day history, England's best-ever chase, their fourth highest total in 50-over cricket and was the fourth innings in a row in which they reached 300.
Captain Eoin Morgan was the star of the show with 113 off 82 balls, but Joe Root also reached double figures with an unbeaten innings of 106 off 97.
Altogether England struck 11 sixes in their run chase. During the World Cup they managed 18 in six games.
What has changed?
Willingness to learn
Former England spinner Phil Tufnell was overjoyed by England's latest performance and said a serving of humble pie after the World Cup had helped, along with a willingness to learn from others.
"There has always been an arrogance about the English game, that we know what we're doing, we're ahead of the game," explained the BBC pundit. "We haven't been ahead of the game for a long time in ODI cricket, that was exposed brutally at the World Cup.
"[England] have sat back, taken stock and said we need to play the aggressive game. They have aped New Zealand completely."
Captain Eoin Morgan, talking after his whirlwind century, said there was a new "carefree attitude" within the team. "We're trying to keep things as raw as possible and concentrate on the process rather than the result and it seems to be working for us at the moment," he told Sky Sports.
Style and philosophy are deemed more important than results at this stage of the team's development, explains Eurosport.
Mark Nicholas, writing in Cricinfo says the three main figures in the England set-up have played their part in the transformation. "Maybe Paul Farbrace, the interim coach, has said attack or be damned. More likely, he and the two captains, Eoin Morgan and Alastair Cook, have decided that the players must spread their wings and fly, or what is the point of it all."
Picking up on Tufnell's point about apeing New Zealand, George Dobell of Cricinfo focuses on England's opening batsmen, who are key to the new approach. Opener Alex Hales, he says, has a similar role to Brendon McCullum. His job is to hurt the opposition early and give England momentum.
At one stage he hit 45 off 12 balls. "Hales didn't just seize the moment. He grabbed it by the throat, punched it in the face and left it begging for mercy in a puddle of its own blood. He batted with absolute disregard for personal milestones or his average... surely a price worth paying for the belief his batting pumped through the England order."
England's resurgence is starting to look like more than a flash in the pan, adds Dobell, and Hales is the posterboy of the new approach. "England have played joyless, snarling cricket for years," he says, the result of over-coaching.
"While other young players were having the joy crushed out of them in the England youth system - doing bleep tests and shuttle runs, learning to play percentage cricket and admiring themselves in their sponsored kit and company cars - Hales was growing up a normal young man," he says, noting that he worked as a delivery driver for a Chinese takeaway.
"It is time to give the characters and free spirits a go. It is time to celebrate players who can relax and express their talent precisely because they know there is more to life than the game."
But let's not get carried away. Ben Hoult of the Daily Telegraph, writing after only two matches of the series, noted that there has been some "poor bowling" from both sides, with a distinct lack of well directed yorkers to peg back the batsmen.
He warns that Australia will be a different proposition. "At the World Cup Australia had the best balanced attack with left arm pace, steady consistency from Josh Hazlewood and James Faulkner's variations. The result? They only conceded one score in excess of 250 in a tournament that saw 28 totals higher than 300."
Then there are the conditions, which are also different from the norm. "The white ball has not swung as much this summer as in the World Cup and the groundsmen have so far produced belting batting surfaces," he adds.