England’s Cricket World Cup history is, to say the least, disappointing. Despite having some strong sides over the years, the country which gave birth to the great sport of cricket has never won its ultimate competition. Until the end of the 1990s England always reached at least the semi-finals, but never made it past the penultimate or final hurdle. Since then, every World Cup has been pretty poor for England, and the current side can only dream of making a fifth final.
1975 saw the inaugural competition, and the hosts England were expected to go far in the tournament. They made it through the group stages without breaking a sweat, humbling India, New Zealand and East Africa by 80 runs or more. However, come the semi-finals the Australians and Gary Gilmour in particular were too good for them; England were skittled out for 93, with Gilmour taking a staggering 6-14.
In 1979, England were hosts again and managed to make it one step further in the competition. Once again England got through the group stages; once again it did not take much effort to do so. England beat Australia, Pakistan and Canada en route to the semis—the latter were bowled out for just 45 thanks to Bob Willis’ and Chris Old’s 4-11 and 4-8 respectively. The semi-final was a tense affair; the hosts scraped past New Zealand by just nine runs. Alas, in the final the West Indies saw them off fairly easily.
Four years later and England were the hosts again. However, they could not make it past the semi-finals. In the new six-game format in the group stages, England lost twice to Pakistan but still topped their groups. Eventual winners India dealt with them in the semi-final, as Yashpal Sharma and Sandeep Patil combined to win the game by six wickets.
1987: different hosts; different winner; similar story for England. Once again, they lost twice to Pakistan in the group stages, finishing runners-up in the group this time, but in the semi-finals they got their revenge of India, thanks to Graham Gooch’s century and Eddie Hemmings’ four wicket haul. This may have been different to the World Cup before, but they lost in the final as in 1979, this time to Australia. The Aussies enjoyed the first of many World Cup wins, as they would go on to dominate the competition.
1992 brought fresh agony to England. They battled their way through nine gruelling matches to come into the final against Pakistan as favourites, but once again it was not to be for the English, as Pakistan took their first and only World Cup victory to date.
Since that date, things have got worse and worse for England. 1996 was the first World Cup in which an extra round between the group stages and semi-finals was introduced. This coincided with England’s failure to reach the semis in the last twenty-three years. 1996 was nothing short of a disaster for England: the Netherlands and the UAE were the only two teams they beat; Sri Lanka saw them off with five wickets and ten overs to spare in the quarter-finals. Few of the tournaments since then have been much better.
The 1999 and 2003 were both disastrous for England. Embarrassing defeats to South Africa and India in the former and a loss by walkover to Zimbabwe in the latter contributed to their failing to make it even past the group stages in those two tournaments. English cricket seemed to be on the rise between 2003 and 2007, including an historic first Ashes win since the 1980s in 2005, but the 2007 World Cup, which came after a 5-0 Ashes defeat for England in Australia, was not much better than the one before it.
England managed to make it through their group of New Zealand, Canada and Kenya despite losing to the Kiwis, but an agonising two-run loss to Sri Lanka coupled with thrashings at the hands of South Africa and Australia meant that England failed to reach the semi-final for the fourth consecutive World Cup.
In 2011, England showed their true inconsistent colours. Wins over the Netherlands, West Indies and South Africa (the latter two in dramatic circumstances) and an incredible tie with India were contrasted with comical losses to Bangladesh and, in one of the greatest World Cup shocks ever, to so-called minnows Ireland. That year the World Cup went from the “Super Eight” system of all eight teams playing each other in another group back to playing a quarter-final knockout match after the group stages, and England were humiliated by ten wickets by Sri Lanka. Impressive knocks from Jonathan Trott and Eoin Morgan were quickly eradicated from the memory, as Tharanga and Dilshan both scored centuries to chase down England’s 229 without losing a wicket. That bowling performance was one of the worst I have watched in One Day International cricket.
This year, England have very little chance of making a fourth World Cup final and attempting to end their everlasting wait for a Cricket World Cup win. Their group contains Australia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Scotland and Afghanistan. Wins against the latter three are to be expected; wins against the former three are not. Therefore their aim should be to comfortably beat Bangladesh, Scotland and Afghanistan, ensuring a place in the quarter-finals, and to hope for the best against the other three. However, knowing England, it won’t be that simple. As for the hope of reaching a first semi-final and even final in twenty-two years, that is one conundrum to be worried about later.
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