'I'd rather be favourites than non-contenders' - Eoin Morgan on England's World Cup hopes
Eoin Morgan satisfied with ruthless dismissal of opposition, as England head to World Cup opener in ideal frame of mind
It was probably fitting that victory should be achieved with a six. So overwhelming was this performance that England, having completed victory with 195 balls to spare, took to the nets to ensure they gained the workout they required from the day. It was efficient, ruthless and encouraging. As their captain, Eoin Morgan, put it afterwards: "We're ready; we've been ready for a week." You have to take performances in these warm-up games with a pinch of salt, of course. This close to the tournament, the primary aim of both sides is pretty much to get through without incurring injury. England had some fortune with the toss, too, which enabled their new-ball bowlers to gain assistance from the surface. Meanwhile, Afghanistan's captain, Gulbadin Naib, was the first to admit his side "made mistakes" and "didn't take responsibility" with the bat. South Africa will, undoubtedly, offer far sterner opposition for England. But it is, perhaps, worth contrasting England's state of mind now with their state of mind going into the 2015 World Cup. Hoping they might, somehow, stumble over a winning formula at the last minute, England changed their captain, their opening attack and their batting order on the eve of the event. They held meeting after meeting in an attempt to find an answer despite the fact it had become increasingly plain that they were wedded to a method - and selections - that had become outdated. Within days of the start, they had been beaten by New Zealand with an eye-watering 226 balls unused.
Now? England go into the tournament as the favourites. They have, with the bat in particular, pushed the boundaries of what any of us thought was possible and they have a settled, confident team. They don't need meetings to find a formula; they just need to deliver.
"In 2015, we had just come out of the tri-series where Australia beat us up and down Australia," Morgan said. "We beat India once, which got us through to the final, but we were beaten again there. We were constantly trying to find a formula that might work in the group stages. We were having a lot of meetings and chats.
"Tomorrow I'm playing a lot of golf. Then we'll practise on Wednesday and play on Thursday. It's a huge compliment to be considered favourites this time. I would much rather that than not even be considered as contenders."
More important than the result was the latest health bulletin from the England dressing room. As thing stand, it seems England should go into the tournament with all 15 players available for selection. The scans on Mark Wood's foot showed nothing of concern - he bowled on the outfield here before play - while Morgan's finger injury had improved to the extent that, while he did not field, he was scheduled to bat at No. 4. Adil Rashid also returned and, while he conceded he would require "lots of stretching and painkillers" to get through the tournament, he insisted he was fine to bowl all his variations at full intensity. It might prove relevant that England's spinners out-bowled Afghanistan's here. These two sides meet again in about three weeks on what we now know will be a used Old Trafford surface. Bearing in mind that Afghanistan's main weapon is the leg-spin of Rashid Khan - he was brought on for the fourth over here - that is not ideal from an England perspective. But the manner in which they played him here - taking three fours and a six off his five overs - underlined their substantial improvement against spin in recent times and suggested there should be no great fears. England's spinners, by contrast, claimed four for 89 in 21 overs with Joe Root, enjoying a relatively rare bowl, suggesting he could prove a valuable addition to the attack with his all-sorts of leg-breaks, off-spin and variations in pace and angle. Mohammad Nabi's off-spin - thrashed for 34 in three overs - fared much worse, with Jason Roy in devastating form. "It does a huge amount for confidence when Jason is hitting it as well as that," Morgan said. "It imposes our game on the opposition and feeds right through the changing room. The aggressive authoritative way he plays builds a lot of confidence. And Jonny Bairstow is the same. When you play as convincingly as that it builds confidence in the hard work you've done, both in training and in the game. And it gives us the afternoon and evening to switch off."
Thursday's game - against a strong South Africa side - is far from straightforward. But most of the England side - the top six and the two spinners - picks itself, while it seems Chris Woakes, Wood and Archer will form the basis of the specialist seam attack. They are settled, confident and as ready as they could reasonably hope to be. It is hard to imagine any England team has gone into a World Cup in better shape.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo