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Sunday, April 18, 1999 Published at 13:39 GMT 14:39 UK

England: Form Guide

The England squad poses at Lord's with the model Caprice

Player profiles: click here

In front of home crowds, and in conditions that should suit them more than any other team, this is England's big chance.

The England and Wales Cricket Board have marketed this tournament like no other but for all the hype to pay off, the host nation desperately need a decent Cup run.

Actually, England's record in World Cups is very good.

The bitterly disappointing performances of 1996, where they showed themselves to be the dinosaurs of the one-day game, came after they had reached the final in three out of the previous five events.

For England to have a chance, two or three players will need to have outstanding tournaments. Alec Stewart, the captain, is long overdue some runs and, if fellow opening batsman Nick Knight finds form, England can meet any asking rate from the start.

The one batsman who has the ability to take matches beyond opponents' reach is Graeme Hick. To do so he must reproduce his county form and play the aggressor rather than the accumulator.

Similarly, Darren Gough is the most likely destroyer with the ball, as he showed so often on the winter tour of Australia.

It would then be the task of Graham Thorpe, Neil Fairbrother and Mark Ealham to play solidly and apply the killer punches.

Above all, what England need is to avoid injuries - particularly to the fragile Thorpe and Fairbrother - and build a momentum of victories.

They threatened a winning one-day habit in Australia before they lost their way in the Carlton and United series and suffered a lacklustre Coca-Cola Cup in Sharjah.

If they can develop a head of steam, maybe, just maybe, cricket could be on its way home.

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