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England step away from the game to diffuse pressure

Eoin Morgan says England won't take their opponents lightly Getty Images

A glance at the fixtures list for this World Cup will tell you the knock-out section of the tournament does not start for another month. But England, at least, could be forgiven for feeling it starts on Saturday.

If that sounds like hyperbole, it's worth musing on likely scenarios. It looks, at this stage, as if teams with up to three losses will probably qualify for the semi-finals. And, with England having won one and lost one of their two games to date, defeat in Cardiff on Saturday would leave them going into their final six group matches with little margin for error. Especially as they face a tough final three games against India, New Zealand and Australia.

But the weather has added something of a wildcard element to that equation. Washouts - especially washouts in games involving Afghanistan and Sri Lanka - could prove definitive, as Australia (who were eliminated from the 2017 Champions Trophy having managed to play only one game to completion) could testify. In short, defeat at the hands of Bangladesh could leave England facing an uphill challenge to qualify.

They will not, therefore, require any reminders about the importance of this match or the quality of their opposition. Not only did Bangladesh defeat England in the previous two World Cups - the loss in Adelaide in 2015 sealed England's early departure from the tournament - but Cardiff was the scene of the defeat that ended England's Champions Trophy run in 2017. "Bangladesh are a side with a huge amount of potential," Eoin Morgan, the England captain, said. "It is going to be a difficult game because they're a good side. I think people under-estimate them."

All of which could leave the England environment just a little tense. So it is hardly surprising that the last few days have seen the management focus on attempting to alleviate that pressure and focus on the qualities - the joy and fearlessness - which sparked such a resurgence after the debacle of the 2015 World Cup. There have been no extra fielding sessions, no talk of the importance of this game and no thought of changing tactics.

"The last couple of days for us has been a case of getting away from the game," Morgan said. "I watch a lot of horse racing and speak to friends and family.

"No, there have been no extra fielding drills. Absolutely not. Fielding for us has been an extremely strong point. We proved that in the first game. We had a bad day in the field at Trent Bridge. That can happen. I wouldn't say we were more anxious than normal.

"As a team, all we've talked about is sticking to what we do well and looking to our strengths. Before the tournament started we talked about losing games and how we would. Everything goes back to focusing on our strengths and how to get the best out of ourselves.

"There's no panic. We're very realistic about performances whether we win or lose. If it doesn't go our way next game or the game after, there's no panic. It's all about sticking to the process."

At such moments, Morgan sounds increasingly like a motivational speaker. And if it's a temptation to lampoon his positivity - defeat against Pakistan is described as a "huge opportunity to learn more" while Jofra Archer's struggles at Trent Bridge are interpreted as a positive: "If he doesn't get hit, he won't learn," - but England are surely fortunate to have such a calm figure leading them. While previous campaigns have seen panic-driven changes of strategy at the last minute - dropping the captain just before the 2015 tournament, for example - Morgan is steadfast in his plans, equable in his temperament, and confident in the team he has assembled.

His reaction to Archer's outing at Trent Bridge is a decent example. Rather than seeing Archer's figures - he conceded 79 from his 10 overs - and his fine for dissent as grounds for concern, he sees it as an inevitable step in the young player's journey. Next time, he reasons, Archer will be better.

"Jofra had never been hit before," Morgan said. "He just didn't go for any runs and eventually he went for runs. If he doesn't get hit, he won't learn. He has very rarely failed but when he does, he is quite chilled. After the game he was very relaxed. He is at the point in his career where he is picking up everything very quickly.

"Yes, learning in a World Cup brings pressure. But he has played in the IPL, which is as good as you can replicate in the World Cup."

Morgan is not convinced that the 2015 defeat in Adelaide was especially traumatic, either. While it sealed England's fate, he feels it was the loss in Wellington - where New Zealand won with almost 38 overs remaining - that was more reflective of how far off the pace England had fallen and more relevant in proving a catalyst for change.

"We were knocked out after that Bangladesh match," he said, "but I wouldn't say it was a watershed moment. The big contributor to changing the way we played was the New Zealand game in Wellington. That made a big contribution to us making steps forward and good decisions.

"We weren't humiliated by Bangladesh. We were beaten again by a better team who deserved to win on the night. The humiliating games were the ones that happened previously. Ones where we were blown away."

It remains likely England will recall Liam Plunkett in place of one of the spinners - probably Adil Rashid - on Saturday. While the wicket has not played quite as green as it has looked here in recent games, those short boundaries are a nightmare for spinners, so England's attack may be more seam heavy than usual. And that might present a challenge to Morgan in ensuring his side bowl their overs within the three-and-a-half hour window allowed.

"There's a chance we might go to four seamers," Morgan said. "The wicket that we saw on Thursday looked similar to the wickets that have been played on here previously. There's a bit of extra green grass. And it's been under the covers for another day. So yes, there's a chance we will change the team.

"Sides have struggled with the over-rates so far, it's not just us that has to keep an eye on it. I certainly don't want to get suspended. Hopefully we can stay on top of it."