Four times in their 602-ODI history have England ever reached the final of an ICC tournament. Four times. June 23, 1979. November 8, 1987. March 25, 1992. September 25, 2004. Three World Cup finals and one Champions Trophy final. Not once have they come up on top in those encounters.
For more than two decades, it was as if England treated 50-over cricket with indifference. Three of their first five World Cups resulted in defeats in the final. They have not made it to any ICC tournament final since 2004. The 2003 and 2007 World Cups were roughshod campaigns. In 2011 they made the semi-finals for the first time since 1992 and were absolutely smashed by Sri Lanka.
In the second Prudential World Cup in 1979, England were hammered by 92 runs at Lord's by Clive Lloyd's West Indians. The hosts had no answer to Viv Richards that day, who slammed an unbeaten 138 in the company of Collis King (86 off 66 balls) to lift the total to 286. In defence of that mammoth total, the menacing Joel Garner collected 5 for 36 as England crashed from 183 for 2 to 194 all-out.
England's next appearance in a World Cup final was in 1987 at Eden Gardens against the old nemesis, Australia. Having helped sweep, literally, India out of the World Cup a few days earlier, Mike Gatting chose the final of the Reliance Cup to try a very risky shot. It would prove the decisive play of the match. In front of 100,000 fans, most of who were backing them, England collapsed from 135 for 2 to lose by seven runs.
England made the final in the next edition, held in Australia in 1992, but again failed to achieve glory. Graham Gooch's team - perhaps the best they have fielded in 50-over cricket - had lost steam by the time they met Pakistan at the MCG, with a few leading players not at their best. Perhaps they were still a bit groggy after getting a reprieve against South Africa in the semi-final, too, for the bowlers turned in an ordinary performance in keeping Pakistan to 249. Then it was over to Pakistan's bowlers, in particular Wasim Akram whose consecutive wickets of Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis snuffed out England's resistance.
England have failed to make a World Cup final since. The only ICC final they have reached since was the Champions Trophy at home in 2004, where they lost a humdinger by two wickets to West Indies in the dark at The Oval. England looked the best side in that tournament and would have lifted the title if not for an epic ninth-wicket partnership from an unlike West Indian duo. Again, despair.
The only ICC trophy they have managed to get their hands on is the 2009 World Twenty20 - their first success in 35 years. But in ODIs, its been zip, zero, nada, nothing.
What makes England's ICC tournament apathy all the more jarring is that the 50-over format was born out of the Gillette Cup in 1963 and that the inaugural ODI was contested between England and Australia in 1971. The first three World Cups were held in England between 1975 and 1983. The conditions were familiar. Still England disappointed at the last hurdle.
Now, against India at Edgbaston on Sunday, Alastair Cook's team has a shot at ODI glory - of sorts. The Champions Trophy bill bow out after the final, and what better way for England to gauge their progress with an eye on 2015 than a famous win in front of their home fans? The talent is not in doubt, but to beat India it will take plenty of inspiration. Just ask India, who created a storm in reaching the final of the 2003 World Cup only to come completely undone against Australia. You can also ask them about 2011, and what it took to conquer the summit.
If Cook, Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott and Joe Root bat to potential, and James Anderson continues his mastery of the swinging ball and Steven Finn lifts his game to maximum level, anything is possible. But, as we know with the England cricket team, that is a huge if.
Have your say: Do you think this England team can lift the trophy?
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