High time England delivered World Cup triumph

IT is not only in Test cricket that England are bidding to become the world's No 1 team.

They have similar ambitions in the one-day game, where they have flattered to deceive for far too long.

Although England won the Twenty20 World Cup in the Caribbean last year, they have yet to prevail in its 50-over counterpart.

It is 19 years since they last reached the final when they lost to Pakistan by 22 runs.

Going into the seven-match one-day series that starts against Australia on Sunday, England sit fifth in the one-day international rankings.

They are behind Australia, India, Sri Lanka and South Africa, stuck in the mire of mid-table mediocrity.

Not so long ago, the situation was a good deal worse but England have won 16 of their last 24 games in the 50-over format.

However, a quarter of those matches were against Bangladesh, the lowest-ranked of the Test-playing teams and hardly a barometer of quality control.

The next few weeks will tell us much about England's status as a one-day side.

As the No 1-ranked one-day outfit, Australia will be no

pushovers – particularly on home soil.

Forget the 3-1 Ashes defeat or the one-wicket loss against England in yesterday's opening Twenty20 international in Adelaide, which earned England a record eighth consecutive Twenty20 victory.

The 50-over game is a different kettle of fish and England will have to play well to beat the Australians.

Perhaps their biggest challenge will be adapting to the different conditions that lie in store.

The Australian pitches are traditionally hard and bouncy, while those in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – the venue for the World Cup – are usually slow and low.

Despite insisting his side have a great chance of ending their 50-over World Cup hoodoo, England head coach Andy Flower has already pinpointed this as a potential problem.

Reflecting on his team's chances of victory on the sub-continent, he said: "I think it is possible, but it's going to be very difficult.

"I'm not sure where we're rated in one-day internationals, but I think with the brand of cricket we're playing, we've got a chance.

"We'll have to switch on to the sub-continent conditions and thrive very quickly.

"Even the Bangladesh conditions will be very tricky – and they've just beaten New Zealand 4-0."

Many pundits, however, are optimistic about their chances.

No less a luminary than former England captain Michael Vaughan believes England will reach at least the semi-finals this time around and very possibly go all the way.

But a last-four appearance is only to be expected.

It is high time England not only reached the knockout stages of the 50-over tournament – but actually won it.

Their goal must be to dominate in all forms of the game, as Australia did for year after year.

To that effect, their tactics and plans need to be a good deal better.

In recent times, England's use of the batting powerplay, for example – the block of five overs during which all but three fielders have to be inside the circle – has bordered on the comical.

The best one-day teams are not only the most talented, but also the most daring, purposeful and invariably the smartest.

For too long, England have lagged behind in this crucial department. There are, however, some encouraging signs.

Andrew Strauss – never a natural one-day batsman – has added more shots to his repertoire in recent times.

Eoin Morgan has emerged as a high-class one-day batsman and, just as important, as a first-rate finisher with an ice-cool temperament so vital in a crisis.

England have the ability to strangle their opponents through spin bowlers Graeme Swann and Michael Yardy, the latter having a potentially crucial role to play in the World Cup, while Stuart Broad – a dab hand in all departments –- should be fit for the tournament after missing the latter part of the Ashes through injury.

Other important team/squad members are the Yorkshire pair Tim Bresnan and Ajmal Shahzad, who have the ability to contribute useful wickets and lower-order runs.

Bresnan's confidence will be sky-high after his heroics in the Ashes, while Shahzad is the sort of character who will want a piece of what Bresnan has enjoyed and who will be inspired to greater effort by the performance of his colleague.

Another key area that could give England an edge in the World Cup competition is their fielding.

This was first-rate during the Ashes series, when the influence of fielding coach Richard Halsall was clear to see, with just about every chance snaffled with aplomb.

Halsall has added a new dimension to England's cricket and is a member of the backroom team who actually seems to be worth his pay cheque – a novel concept in these days of sundry nonentities and hangers-on.

England, in fact, arguably lead the world in the fielding stakes, which could be the difference between a semi-final finish and a trophy-winning challenge.