Darren Gough – Just wait until England bring their ‘A game’ to the World Cup table

ALL the hype is surrounding England at this World Cup and I have no doubt they are the best team in the competition – if they bring their ‘A game’, they win it.

Got him: England's Ben Stokes celebrates his stunning catch off South Africa's Andile Phehlukwayo.
Got him: England's Ben Stokes celebrates his stunning catch off South Africa's Andile Phehlukwayo.

But looking at their opener against South Africa, it was not their ‘A game’. Yes, there were moments of quality from Ben Stokes, Eoin Morgan and Jofra Archer but they were not massively dominant.

I look at Australia and see a threat. They will last the course and have a fit side with hungry players and will be focused after everything they have been through in the last 18 months.

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There is something about them. They won in Pakistan and India – two big morale-boosting victories – and they beat England in a friendly last week.

They are a very good side, although the only worry with them is that they have not got that high-class spinner such as Adil Rashid or Moeen Ali, Imran Tahir or Rashid Khan of Afghanistan.

Looking at the other contenders, I think the West Indies top six are as good as anyone on their day with Evin Lewis and Chris Gayle at the top being so destructive. They also have an in-form Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer and Darren Bravo, who can keep the scoreboard ticking along, and Andre Russell. What a player Russell has been in the IPL and they have some real form players.

For me, the competition is open. I cannot write off New Zealand either with the experience and longevity of their opening bowlers Tim Southee and Trent Boult, together with batsmen Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor and former Yorkshire regular Kane Williamson.

England will understandably be happy to win their opening encounter. I know what it is like and recall winning against Sri Lanka on home soil first up in 1999.

England's Jofra Archer celebrates taking the wicket of South Africa's Faf du Plessis at The Oval. Picture: Tim Goode/PA

The players will have been on top of the world and enjoyed it, but they will now be working hard to make sure they are on top of their game against Pakistan on Monday.

England were below par against South Africa but it was a massive win and if they had lost on Thursday, then a bit of self-doubt could have crept in ahead of their next game.

Pakistan are a good side with Wahab Riaz and Mohammed Amir back and have good batsmen along with the spinner Shadab Khan. It could have become a difficult game.

Now that we have the points in the bag from the first game, confidence can only grow.

England's Jonny Bairstow is caught by South Africa's Quinton de Kock at The Oval. Picture: Tim Goode/PA

You have to say what a performance from Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer on Thursday.

Stokes showed why he is one of the most expensive cricketers in the world. He displayed great fielding and good bowling and was superb with the bat.

Plus, what an unbelievable catch.

You can see how much he works on his game and his fitness.

Yes, Stokes has made some mistakes over the past couple of years, but he is a good pro who works his socks off and gets his rewards. It was a high-class performance.

When it comes down to Archer, some people did say: ‘why was he picked? and that there is too much hype about him.

Well, I think he silenced those doubters on Thursday. He was absolutely magnificent and that was why he was picked and will now be ahead of Mark Wood in the pecking order.

To hit someone like Hashim Amla, with the amount of internationals he has played and experience he has got, and smash him on the head and show such aggressive bowling was superb.

Mark my words, the best format where you will find the best of Archer is Test cricket. He is a diamond player and he announced himself against South Africa.

But it is a long six-and-a-half week World Cup and he has got to carry on and fitness will play a huge key in this.

That is why I think there are only so many teams in it in terms of potential winners as fitness over a long competition will be vital and England have got so many different players they can turn to.

They can afford to rest Archer against certain teams and bring in Wood who can bowl at 90mph.

England can also bring in Tom Curran and rest Liam Plunkett or Chris Woakes at certain times. Liam Dawson can also be brought in for Adil Rashid or Moeen Ali. They have so many options.

South Africa’s best chance of winning the game was winning the toss and bowling and knocking over England’s top three and they almost got the job done by getting out Jonny Bairstow early and surprising everyone by opening with a spinner. That was good captaincy from Faf du Plessis.

England would have set themselves a target of 340-350 but fell short, so it was a dominant bowling performance from them.

South Africa will be disappointed in that, at one point, they seemed to have the game in the bag.

But they pressed the self-destruct button with poor shot selection and it was a strange selection in bringing in JP Duminy and not picking David Miller.

While it was far from perfect at The Oval, it was such an important victory for England.