Bengaluru, June 22: England literally had a halo around them in the run-up to the ICC World Cup 2019. Going by their super form since their campaign ended in the previous edition Down Under and the fact that they are playing the WC in home conditions, not many showed the courage to not consider them as probable champions. Eoin Morgan's side started off well as well, beating South Africa by 104 runs in the first game.
But thereafter, the campaign hasn't been consistently high. England lost to Pakistan in the very next game by 14 runs, after putting all the fight they could to achieve a target of 349. The Three Lions were back into business in the next three matches, hammering Bangladesh by 106 runs; thumping the West Indies by 8 wickets and pulverising Afghanistan by 150 runs.
The wins were followed by a surprise loss to Sri Lanka by 20 runs. England are still sitting pretty with eights points from six matches but the concern of their story is now, all their games are against teams that are placed above them in the points table (considering India will beat Afghanistan in their Saturday clash in Southampton).
This is a situation Morgan and his side would not have loved to be in. This World Cup is in such a position now that the below six teams can play the spoilsport for the top fours as their stakes have grown higher to confirm a spot in the semi-finals.
England have now played all the lower-ranked teams but yet need some more wins to get into the semi-finals (they had last made it in 1992). Australia (on June 25), India (June 30) and New Zealand (July 3) will not be easy opponents for the hosts, their massive batting strength notwithstanding.
The losses against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the two teams England have humiliated at will over the last many months, have exposed a shortcoming and it is about their proclivity to falter under pressure of chasing. This is not too unsurprising a fact since they are playing at home.
In the 1987, 1992 and 2011 editions, India, Australia and Bangladesh, respectively, had moments when they had faltered under the home pressure. There is no doubt about England's batting potential but after Sri Lanka's smart performance on Friday, teams with bowling attack better than theirs will target the soft underbelly the Englishmen have showed while striving for a target.