To suggest that England might be contenders for a global limited overs title is to invite ridicule. Only once have they won – the World T20 in the Caribbean in 2010 – and their recent performances at these showpiece events have been nothing short of embarrassing. The World Cup earlier this year is a case in point.
So could the World T20 in India early next year be different?
Eoin Morgan’s side are clearly in form, unbeaten in T20 internationals in 2015, although they have only played five games. They have a youthfulness and vibrancy, coupled with a no-fear approach, which is vital to any successful T20 side. And they have the necessary attributes to win: a dynamic opening pair; a powerful and deep batting line up; and variety in their bowling attack.
Winning the recent T20 series in the UAE against Pakistan 3-0 was a serious statement of intent. Twenty20 games can turn on the performances of one or two individuals, so it is tough to win a number of games in a row. It is what Morgan’s side will have to do if they want to win the World T20. The fact they have proved, to themselves and their opponents, that they can do it, will stand them in good stead.
Although we know the tournament is being held in India, comically, the venues and fixtures have not yet been announced despite there being less than 100 days to go until the date of the first game. Despite this, England know that they will have to counter subcontinental conditions, and they adapted well in Dubai and Sharjah. The experience and planning for those three games will have given them much to take forward to India.
They used the Pakistan series to try different combinations. James Vince and Steven Parry were both given opportunities, adding to the number of players available to Morgan and coach Trevor Bayliss. In addition to the 15 man squad in the UAE, England still have the rested Ben Stokes and the injured Mark Wood and Steven Finn, hopefully to return. Winning the World T20 will require a squad effort and England’s looks strong.
The success of England’s one-day cricket generally in 2015 has been quite remarkable considering where they were at the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. England were playing a different game to the top teams at that competition, with a team not suited to the demands of the modern game.
Their current squad looks far more able to compete. In Jason Roy and Alex Hales, England have a dynamic and explosive opening pair to get them off to a flier. A middle order of Morgan, Stokes, Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali is innovative and powerful, and nearly all of the bowlers bat. In the final game of the T20 series against Pakistan, the lowest first class score in the eleven was Chris Jordan’s 92.
England’s World Cup batting lacked power players throughout the order who could clear the rope. Ian Bell, fine player though he is, showed England’s backward thinking. Bell was unable to rival the likes of Australia’s Aaron Finch in power hitting in the early powerplay overs. The muscular Stokes was left at home. England’s batting now looks far better suited to the demands of the modern limited overs game.
The bowling attack was dominated by right-arm medium pace in the World Cup, but now has far more variety and one-day skill. David Willey and Reece Topley provide left-arm options and Topley’s myriad of slower balls in particular are vital on subcontinental pitches. When Wood and Finn return, alongside Liam Plunkett, the attack will have serious pace. Chris Woakes and Jordan have proved fine death bowlers.
A good one-day attack needs pace, left and right-arm options and a spinner who can beat both edges of the bat. Adil Rashid is the final piece of the jigsaw, turning the ball both ways with his legspinners and googlies. Together with Ali and Parry, England’s one-day spin options look solid and all three will have an important role to play on the slow, spinning Indian wickets.
Paul Collingwood led England to their triumph in the West Indies in 2010. He is now part of the coaching staff, and alongside Bayliss, a coach renowned for his limited overs credentials, England will not want for planning and strategy. Morgan is the only England player to have much experience of the IPL, although several have done well in the Big Bash, so England’s leaders have the high level T20 cricket nous needed to compete.
Getting the right players in the side has been the most important aspect of improving England, but what Bayliss and Paul Farbrace (England’s assistant coach who took temporary charge during the one-day series against New Zealand) have done is give the players more freedom. The line of not being afraid to fail was trotted out regularly during the World Cup, but not delivered upon. The players then looked frozen on the big stage but this side is different.
Of course one-day cricket, and T20 specifically, is liable to be decided by a blistering performance or two to a much greater extent than Test cricket. That makes predicting T20 knockout games so difficult, as form more or less goes out of the window. England have a host of players able to win games singlehanded, especially Buttler and Morgan, and so are dangerous. What they will need to win the tournament is for none of their opponents to have an even more brilliant day against them.
England have all the components needed to win the World T20, and are in good form. They will face tough challengers, in particular from India and reigning champions West Indies, but Morgan and his side should feel confident that they can go all the way. To win from where their one-day cricket was at the 50 over World Cup would be an astonishing achievement. You wouldn’t bet against it. Which is quite something.