Defending champions England seek World Cup encore despite ageing stars

Can England defend their World Cup title? (2:49)

They might not look as threatening as they did four years ago, but they still tick most boxes (2:49)

World Cup pedigree: England are in uncharted territory as defending champions, sneaking past New Zealand on boundary count to win their maiden title at Lord's four years ago. Once the laughing stock of one-day cricket - from 1992 and before the 2019 semi-finals, they hadn't won a single knockout game at a 50-over World Cup - they are now among the favourites at every limited-overs ICC event.

Recent form: This squad's only meaningful preparation was last month, when they came from 0-1 down to beat New Zealand 3-1. England had only played nine ODIs in the preceding 13 months, and the entire World Cup squad rested during their recent 1-0 win against Ireland. Bilateral results have been considered low priority since Matthew Mott's appointment as white-ball coach last year; after all, in 2022, his side peaked at the right time to lift the T20 World Cup in Australia.

Selection: Ben Stokes returns as a specialist batter after a brief ODI retirement, while Harry Brook was a late replacement for Jason Roy. England have picked six seamers, anticipating niggles and a variety of conditions across their nine group games in eight different cities, while Jofra Archer will travel as a reserve.

Squad: Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (capt, wk), Liam Livingstone, Moeen Ali, Sam Curran, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Mark Wood, Harry Brook, David Willey, Reece Topley and Gus Atkinson

Key player: He has hardly played 50-over cricket in the last four years, but Joe Root was England's leading run-scorer at the 2019 World Cup, and his fortunes as their fulcrum at No. 3 may decide their progress. Root is England's best player of spin, and spent two months preparing for this World Cup while running drinks for Rajasthan Royals at the IPL earlier this year. Root will hope that tailored preparation can help him overcome a lean run in ODIs, having played just 19 of them since the 2019 World Cup, with three half-centuries and no hundreds.

Rising star: Although an established all-format international and already an IPL millionaire, Sam Curran is the second-youngest player in England's squad at 25, and is more likely to play a significant role than Brook, the designated spare batter. Curran has only played 26 ODIs, and his numbers do not stand out either, but he proved in Australia last year that he revels on the big stage. Expect him to be used in a variety of roles across the tournament.

World Cup farewells? Where to start? Only three players in England's squad are younger than 29, and most members will be in their late 30s by the time the 2027 World Cup comes around. There will almost certainly be a substantial changing of the guard after this tournament, and several members of the touring party are unlikely to feature in ODIs again, including Stokes, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes.