T20 World Cup | Spin and slow pitches stand between England and another World Cup triumph

Mayank Kumar

Mayank Kumar

Author| Oct 21, 5:41 PM

Image: Twitter
Image: Twitter

When Carlos Brathwaite hit four consecutive sixes to win West Indies the last edition of the T20 World Cup in 2016, it left Ben Stokes on his haunches and England’s dream of winning the title that would have established their arrival on the world stage in the white-ball format, crestfallen.

That World Cup was the first grand test of their revamped model of playing white-ball cricket in the leadership of Eoin Morgan and Andrew Strauss and hence a triumph would have sealed their rise and prominence in limited-overs cricket.

But their defeat too could not hide the massive progress they made with the white ball since the disastrous group stage knockout in the 2015 ODI World Cup in Australia.

However, the success and failure of a team in the white-ball formats can’t be measured by any other metric but the number of World Cups they win and hence the 2016 World Cup was a massive opportunity missed.

A little over five years from then, England are once again back in the T20 World Cup and are set to open their campaign with the clash against West Indies.

Once again, they are one of the firm favourites to lift the trophy. The time period between 2016 final and the first day of the Super 12 round of the tournament was the years of England’s redemption and unprecedented rise on the world stage. They went on to win the ICC ODI World Cup in 2019 at home and the metric of a global title was also achieved in the period to establish their supremacy and rise in the format.

Here, we’ll analyse the biggest strengths, weaknesses, challenges and prospects of the England side in the T20 World Cup.

England squad for World T20 2021

Eoin Morgan (C), Moeen Ali, Jonathan Bairstow, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Tom Curran, Chris Jordan, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, Tymal Mills, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood

Reserves: Liam Dawson, James Vince, Reece Topley

Relentless six-hitting batting lineup

All the probable batsmen of a first-choice England playing XI, except Dawid Malan, are prolific six hitters who have earned the reputation of being batsmen with the ability to hit big shots at will.

The most likely opening pair of Jos Buttler and Jason Roy have been in ominous six-hitting touch in the last few years and England will have a lot of reliance on them if they want to succeed in the tournament.

The middle-order has been boosted by the emergence of Liam Livingstone, who has made a habit of making grounds look smaller when he wants to go big over the fence and a perpetual improvement of Jonny Bairstow, the swashbuckling batsman. They have provided England with a lot of firepower in the middle phase of the game and a lot of their fortunes in the end over and chances of piling on big runs in the end phase of the game will rest on their shoulders.

Spin - a perpetual challenge

A lot of England’s success in the recent past in the short formats of the game can easily be attributed to Adil Rashid’s leg-spin, but a lot of that success has come on flatter pitches at home or even away, where producing a couple of wicket-taking deliveries make a hell lot of a difference.

The T20 World Cup will be a different sort of challenge for Rashid as pitches in the UAE and Oman are expected to assist a lot to the spinners and there will be pressure on him to pick wickets while controlling the flow of the game, a part of the game he struggles with.

There are no other frontline spin bowling options other than him albeit England have Moeen Ali who produced good numbers playing for the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL 2021 on similar surfaces. However, his inclusion in the side will be more dependent on how Morgan wants to keep the composition of the batting order and hence it leaves Rashid as the only first-choice spinner in the side for a tournament that is scheduled to be played on slower and lower surfaces.

While there is a lack of depth in spin bowling, England also have a huge task on their hands in terms of batting well on such surfaces and enabling the bowling attack to mount a sustainable defence.

The likes of Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow have proven their credentials on slower surfaces in IPL but the batsmen such as Dawid Malan and Livingstone have to bat out of their skin to provide England with a substantial advantage with the bat.

Both bowling spin and batting against spin bowling will be England’s Achilles' heel in the tournament and if they can improve their game with both aspects of the game.

Absence of X-factor players

England would be sorely missing the duo of Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer in the World Cup as their presence would have added much-needed balance and experience into the squad.

Of the two, England would be miss Archer the most as his absence has left a big hole to be filled in the bowling department. In his absence, England have brought Tymal Mills to bring both pace and variety to the bowling department, but Archer’s absence is a huge boot to fill for Mills.

Archer was a dominant force with the ball both at the start and at the end overs of the innings and it’s unlikely Mills will be able to execute that role. However, if statistics are anything to go by, Mills is the best executor of yorkers in the white ball format and his accuracy with the changes of pace gives England bowling a different flavour outside the powerplay.

Morgan and his think tank will hope that, Mills along with Chris Jordan can put enough pressure at the backend of the innings for the opposition to implode.

Morgan’s poor form, Malan’s sluggish approach

Eoin Morgan has earned an indisputable reputation in England cricket as the only World Cup-winning captain in the ODI format and his place and authority over the England white-ball setup was getting stronger with each passing series.

However, at the end of the day, Morgan walked into the playing XI based on the fearless batting approach accompanied by monumental results, and now as his bat has gone silent for some time, he will face tough questions from himself, if not the team management. 

He looked horribly out of touch in the UAE leg of the IPL with the Kolkata Knight Riders and England will hope his misery had ended with that stint.

He would be the first one to admit his diminishing returns with the bat and hence it was brave of him to address the question of his form by saying that he won’t come in between England and the cup and would drop himself if he doesn’t recover his form.

England need him badly to score runs not only to boost the morale of the whole squad but also for a fully functional middle order which has been depleted by the absence of Ben Stokes. Morgan’s success with the bat will solve one of the two jigsaw puzzles of England’s batting unit in the World Cup.

Apart from Morgan’s slump, England have also a big call to take on the approach and numbers of Dawid Malan. He produced an outstanding set of numbers in the past few years to rise to the top of the ranking, but his approach of taking some time at the crease before going for glory shots has been exposed in the past few series.

England will have to take a call on maximizing the first six overs on slower surfaces in UAE and Oman and hence they need a rethink of Malan’s batting mindset in the tournament.

Recent form

England have won nine of their last 11 bilateral T20I series since 2018 and they had won five out of the six games at home against Pakistan and Sri Lanka earlier this year. However, the only series loss they suffred was at the hands of India which puts the spin being their biggest challenge in the tournament into perspective.

Probable first XI

Jason Roy, Jos Buttler (WK), Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow, Liam Livingstone, Eoin Morgan (C), Moeen Ali, Chris Jordan, Mark Wood, Adil Rashid, Tymal Mills

 

  • Eoin Morgan
  • Jos Buttler
  • Jonny Bairstow
  • Jason Roy
  • Tymal Mills
  • Chris Jordan
  • ENG
  • T20 WC 2021

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