England will be looking to go one step further in the T20 World Cup than five years ago, when they were beaten by the West Indies in an epic final in Kolkata.
The Windies, coincidentally, are first up in Dubai on Saturday for Eoin Morgan’s side, who are fancied to at least make it out of the Super 12 stage and into the semi-finals in the United Arab Emirates.
Here, the PA news agency takes a closer look at England ahead of the start of their campaign.
England are, quite frankly, spoiled for riches, especially at the top of the order. There is still some speculation about whether Jos Buttler is best suited to opening when his excellent batting against spin could be utilised down the order. But there can be no arguing with his results: in 22 innings up top he has amassed 875 runs at a supreme average of 51.47 and a lofty strike-rate of 148.05. Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow can be counted upon to start quickly, while in between the pair is Dawid Malan, who is the world’s top-ranked batsman in the format at present. Liam Livingstone holds the record for England’s quickest ton while Moeen Ali looks to be hitting peak form.
While Malan’s overall record of 43.19 with a strike-rate of 139.33 is excellent, those numbers have dipped to 26.8 and 114.52 respectively this year. His suitability to the number three spot is further under scrutiny because of his tendency to grow into his innings rather than look to attack from the get-go. Captain Morgan is also out of form, with a top score of just 13 in his last nine official innings and he is without a T20 international fifty in more than a year. He has indicated he would drop himself if his poor form hampered England’s chances of glory.
Spin to win?
United Arab Emirates pitches are traditionally dry, slow and conducive to spinners, so England will include the leg-breaks of Adil Rashid, undoubtedly one of the best white-ball bowlers in the world. Supplementary spin will also be required and it could be a shootout between the off-spin of Moeen and the mix-and-match variations of Livingstone. However, it is feasible England could choose to drop Malan and parachute Moeen in at first drop, allowing them to play three spinners, and on current form the move would not significantly compromise the batting.
Don’t bet against pace
The absence of Jofra Archer, last year’s most valuable player at the Indian Premier League, creates a sizeable vacuum. But Mark Wood and left-armer Tymal Mills, back in the England reckoning after four years away, can plug the pace gap, possibly taking the pitch out of the equation. Chris Woakes and David Willey are two wily operators and back in favour while Chris Jordan and Tom Curran’s variations could be particularly useful. Jordan has been England’s T20 go-to for a number of years now and will be relied upon at the death to keep the runs column down.
Wisdom is important
Experience cannot be bought or taught so the unavailability of Ben Stokes leaves another hole for England. While his T20 international record is modest, he thrives on the big occasion, as he showed when inspiring the team to 50-over World Cup glory. However, a number of England’s players know what it is like at the deep end of a tournament, with nine of this current crop in the squad two years ago. Willey, Jordan and Sam Billings were also part of the group that reached the World Twenty20 final in 2016. Those dozen members will be better for their experiences.