World Cup presents chance for England to inspire, says Joe Root

JOE ROOT believes England’s World Cup hopefuls can evoke the spirit of 2005 when Michael Vaughan’s Ashes heroes inspired a nation.

SWING HIGH: England's Joe Root . Picture: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Vaughan led England to a 2-1 victory against Australia as England regained the urn for the first time since 1986-87.

Root bunked off school to watch the final day of that 2005 series as a 14-year-old with ambitions of one day following in the footsteps of fellow Yorkshire star Vaughan.

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“I was sat on the sofa watching every minute of it,” he said, “pretending to curl up in pain to make sure people thought I was ill.”

Now Root is part of a squad that are firm favourites to lift the World Cup and which Vaughan has called “the best England one-day team ever”.

Vaughan has also remembered how, as a 17-year-old college student, he watched England’s only previous World Cup final appearance in 1992, when they lost by 22 runs to Pakistan in Melbourne.

Eoin Morgan’s class of 2019 is primed to go one step further, with the captain having helped to revolutionise England’s white-ball cricket since they flopped at the last World Cup in 2015.

Root, the glue of a batting line-up that features more explosive elements than a fireworks display, believes that a similar fever could now grip the country as when Vaughan’s men captured the nation’s hearts.

“I’m very much looking forward to it; it’s a great opportunity,” he said. “It feels like everything’s fallen together at the right time.

“It’s now about riding that bit of luck if we get it and to perform as well as we have done and just bringing the whole thing together, and hopefully inspiring the nation as well.

“We saw that happen in the Ashes in 2005, and we’ve got a great opportunity, hosting a major tournament like a World Cup, and playing the way that we have, to do something very similar if we can live up to what we’re capable of doing.”

The ability of Vaughan and his team to inspire in 2005 was significantly assisted by the fact that the matches were then on free-to-air television.

But although the game’s reach has subsequently dwindled, there is no doubting that a successful World Cup campaign – and subsequent Ashes series – could only help inspire the Roots of the future.

For that to happen England must perform when it really matters while coping with a considerable weight of expectation.

Root insists that they fully deserve their favourites tag, but knows that it will count for little if they fail to perform.

“We’ve earned that favourites tag, I think, by the way that we’ve played in the last year-and-a-half in particular,” he said.

“We’ve played some strong cricket and that does give us a huge amount of confidence knowing that we go into the tournament on home soil as the No 1-ranked team in the world.

“Of course, you’ve got to live up to that, but that’s what you try and do every day when you’re playing for England.

“You’re playing for something bigger, better than yourself, and it’s about putting those performances in when it really counts.”

Root was part of the team that came up short in the home Champions Trophy of 2017, losing to Pakistan in the semi-final at Cardiff.

Morgan’s men were favourites to win that tournament too, but struggled on a slow pitch as they slipped to a shock eight-wicket defeat.

“The one thing that’s been missing, and the one thing that we couldn’t quite get right two years ago was winning that Champions Trophy semi-final and getting ourselves into a final, so it’s about putting ourselves in a similar position this time, learning from two years ago and making sure that we get ourselves in that final and play some strong cricket throughout the tournament,” added Root.

“It’s about doing it in a major tournament like the World Cup and hopefully now winning some silverware.

“You can prepare as well as possible, as we have done, but it’s about converting that into the games that matter. I think everyone’s just desperate to get the tournament under way, to get out there and to continue playing in the manner that we have been.”

Root believes that England are ready for the challenge having played a fearless style of cricket in the past four years.

Although the hosts face warm-up matches against Australia at the Ageas Bowl on Saturday and against Afghanistan at The Oval on Monday, ahead of their opener against South Africa at The Oval on May 30 that starts the World Cup, they effectively completed their preparations with a 4-0 pummelling of Pakistan.

“The most pleasing thing about the whole (Pakistan) series is that you look across the board and everyone put in performances,” said Root.

“You can’t ask any more of a group of players to do what they have throughout those games.

“Within this last series there’s been some big scores, guys have bowled well under pressure and we’ve taken early wickets.

“I feel like we’re in a really good position to be able to give the best account of ourselves (in the World Cup) because of the way that we’ve been playing.”