There are few better reasons to bask in the glory of your success than winning your country’s first ever World Cup but England’s squad have little time to pat themselves on the back. In eight days, they will be hosting Ireland in a Test match at Lord’s and the following week they begin a home Ashes series.
Amongst the squad, there is rightly a determination to enjoy their World Cup success. It is the culmination of a huge amount of work. There have been celebrations at Downing Street and at The Oval while the players had a long and enjoyable night on Sunday evening at the ground and the hotel. It is right that they have – such achievements do not come round every day – but soon enough their attention will have to be re-focused even if they might not want it to.
Hosting a World Cup and Ashes series in the space of four months is why ECB chief executive Tom Harrison called this summer a “once in a generation” opportunity for cricket in this country. It does, however, place huge demands on England’s squad given many of those who were involved in the World Cup will also likely be in place for the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston. If Jason Roy and Jofra Archer are selected, there could be as many as ten swapping the light blues for the whites over the next few weeks.
The risk is that exertions of those players over the last eleven games has taken such an emotional and physical toll that they arrive at Lord’s next week, and in Birmingham the week after, flat no matter how much professionalism and commitment they muster. Raising their emotional energy so soon after the most emotional few weeks of their lives will take some doing. Over the next two weeks, England’s management needs to handle these players carefully.
“I think it [the victory] gives them a bit of leeway to get some time off,” Eoin Morgan said after Sunday’s game. “I think everybody needs it. This tournament has taken a lot out of us as a team, both mentally and physically. And I think energy levels will drop quite quickly unless the guys are looked after and I think I’m pretty sure they are going to be looked after.”
Root has confirmed he will play against the Irish but others will be rested. That is undoubtedly the right approach but it will leave a number of the likely squad without any red ball match practice ahead of the opening Ashes Test which begins on August 1. Technically and tactically, that may prove a challenge but England’s Test captain does not think the World Cup winners will struggle to pick themselves up mentally to go again.
“We’ve a week before we meet up as a group and start to prep properly for it [the Tests],” said Root. “But there’s been a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes to make sure we’re ready. It always is so special: the atmosphere; the two weeks leading in; the way it builds; the way the guys get excited about it. It’s like no other series in Test cricket. I’m really looking forward to it. It’ll be massive. Especially on the back of this. It will make it even bigger.
“We couldn’t be in a better place, really. Ultimately, the confidence this will give the guys to take into a series like that – especially the way we’ve played against Australia at Edgbaston in that semi – the guys involved will relish that and want more of that. The feeling of euphoria we felt at that ground and yesterday. To experience all that again is very exciting. Ashes cricket always has a different edge to it and that in itself will get everyone going.”
There will be several players not involved in the World Cup who will come into contention for the Test squad against Ireland. Sam Curran took six wickets against Australia ‘A’ for England Lions in Canterbury yesterday while James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns and Joe Denly all played in England’s last Test in West Indies. Anderson is, however, not expected to play against Ireland as he continues his recovery from a calf injury sustained while playing for Lancashire.
The squad for the inaugural Test between the two countries which begins on July 24 is expected to be announced tomorrow while England’s players will meet up this weekend for a camp to begin preparations for the red-ball part of the summer. The highs of the World Cup will still be fresh in their minds but attention needs to shift quickly if they are to scale their second challenge and complete a World Cup-Ashes double.
“It would be the pinnacle,” said Root. “It’s what we set out to do at the start of the year. Two, three years, actually. And we’re halfway there. A lot of hard work to go but hopefully we can do that.”