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How 2019 compares with expectations the last time England hosted a home World Cup

By Richard Edwards

THE last World Cup to take place on these shores was, in some quarters, labelled as a last-ditch attempt to save the ailing English game.

A lot has happened in the intervening 19 years.

Back then, the talk was of dwindling membership numbers, falling one-day crowds and an England side that did little to inspire either confidence or the next generation of wannabe cricketers.

How times have changed.

When the World Cup begins in England next summer, it will do so in a completely new environment, with membership numbers now secondary to bums on seats for Twenty20 cricket – a format that has saved the English game, in a financial sense at least.

On the pitch, things look far more rosy too, with the likes of Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Jos Buttler and Joe Root adding some star dust to a one-day side that is currently dishing out a lesson in the format to Australia on their own patch.

What will be different is the weight of expectation that Eoin Morgan’s side will face as they attempt to win the 50-over World Cup for the first time.

The closest England came to doing that on familiar ground was in 1979 when the West Indies demolished them in the final at Lord’s.

A semi-final in 1983 – when England lost to eventual champions India by six wickets at Old Trafford – was then made to look a positive triumph in comparison to the shambles of 1999, when the nation could only watch on with their heads in their hands as England were stuffed in the group stages.

It was hardly the finale that the ECB had envisioned but, 19 years on, hopes are far higher this time around. And justifiably so.

New dawn: England’s preparations for next year’s World Cup have shown they can rely on their depth in ODIs (photo: Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

The main issue for Morgan’s men, though, will be coping with that weight of expectation.

“That’s not something we had to worry about in 1999,” says Adam Hollioake, a member of a squad who lost to India and South Africa in the opening stages of the tournament.

“It wasn’t that we were a bad side, it was just the case that there were a lot of sides better than us. Australia, South Africa, Pakistan – they were all top, top sides.

“Yes, I guess a lot of people were hoping that we would challenge for the tournament but our performances in the run-up to the finals didn’t really back that up.

“We didn’t have the sort of players who could change a game, which is what you need at a World Cup.”

That’s certainly not the case now, with this England side packed with what’s known in modern parlance as ‘X-Factor’ cricketers. Winning a series in Australia has proved they also have the mental strength to go toe-to-toe with the toughest foes in world cricket.

Shifting tickets on the back of their performances should prove as facile as a Buttler ramp shot, selling replica shirts with his name emblazoned on the back will be equally easy.

After disappointment in four previous home editions, all they need to do now is banish some ghosts and create their own bit of history.

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