Today new writer Leo McGuinn previews England’s T20 series in South Africa. The three-match series begins on Friday …
It feels like a long time since an international T20 series has meant this much to England. In a T20 driven era, it has been franchise cricket that has come to the fore over the last few years, with the international form of the game taking a backseat.
At one point we were over saturated with T20 World Cups, there seemed to be one every few months. Ever since the first edition in 2007, the longest wait was only ever two years. There were six tournaments in nine years. Now it’s been nearly five years since Kolkata and we all remembered Carlos Brathwaite’s name.
For England, all roads lead to India, where the 2021 T20 World Cup will be held. There was meant to be a competition happening now of course, in Australia, but that was scrapped, sorry delayed, until 2022 due to the pandemic. What’s new?
England’s recent record in the format is impressive. They have won six and draw one of their last seven series and will be favourites to add another series victory in South Africa.
The problem with T20’s often being tacked onto the end of long test and one day series is teams often disregard them and see them as secondary. The big guns are often rested, and fringe players get an opportunity. Ben Stokes has only played three T20s for England in the last two years.
This isn’t the case for this tour and for the first time in what feels like forever, England have a full-strength squad to choose from. Joe Root couldn’t find his way into the squad despite an excellent international record. That suggests England’s batting stocks aren’t in bad shape.
How will England line-up?
Looking at the England’s most likely line-up the strengths are immediately obvious. The batting is as good as it gets and just keeps on going. A top three of Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow and, probably their greatest ever white ball bat, Jos Buttler is explosive at worst and downright ridiculous at best.
The debate continues over Buttler’s best position, but England seem set to continue with him as an opener. They clearly want to give their best player as many balls as possible and it’s hard to argue with them.
Dawid Malan will most likely slot in at four and the fact there is any debate about it shows just how good the strength in depth is at the current moment. The man averages over 50 and is currently the number one rated T20 bat in the world. Just about scrapes into the side.
The skipper comes in at five, Eoin Morgan is still one of the best in the business and his promotion to captain a floundering KKR side in the IPL showed just how much he is valued worldwide as a captain,. He brings calmness to the line-up in the middle order.
Ben Stokes will probably bat six and people will bring up his modest T20 international stats, again. And Ben Stokes will prove people wrong, again. Stokes is match winner, end of, and showed in the IPL he can bat up at the top of the order, and score tons. Stokes as a sixth option with the ball also alleviates pressure on Morgan and the other bowlers.
Sam Curran’s stellar IPL looks to have edged him ahead of Moeen Ali in the pecking order. Curran was a shining light in a disastrous CSK season and took wickets aplenty combined with valuable runs. We’ll talk more about Mo later on. Poor Mo.
Adil Rashid and Jofra Archer pick themselves. A world class leggie and the IPL MVP. Archer has only played four T20s for his country but is one of the very best with ball in hand and will add some valuable late order hitting.
The last two spots are between Tom Curran, Chris Jordan and Mark Wood. It seems like Curran and Jordan will get the nod, with more T20 pedigree than the Durham man.
Looking back over that line-up England cover nearly all bases. Firepower at the top of the order. Genuine all-rounders. An incredibly deep batting line-up. A left armer in Curran with Topley on the bench. Genuine pace in Archer and Wood if he plays. Quality spin through Rashid and the guile of Chris Jordan’s yorkers and Tom Curran’s cutters.