Key questions around England’s T20 World Cup preparations and chances of victory
Having claimed a series win against Pakistan on their first tour to the country in 17 years, England’s Twenty20 squad have moved on to Australia for the World Cup.
Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the key issues ahead of the tournament.
When does England’s World Cup start?
The qualifying group stage, featuring both Ireland and Scotland, begins on October 16, but England parachute straight in at the Super 12 phase, opening the campaign against Afghanistan on October 22. There is plenty of preparation to go in before then. Training will take place in Perth, before a three-game series against hosts Australia and a final warm-up against a now familiar Pakistan side.
Who’s in and who’s out?
The squad that took care of business is Karachi and Lahore is very different to the one which convened Down Under. Ben Duckett has headed home despite playing all seven games, as have Will Jacks, Olly Stone and Luke Wood following their debuts in Pakistan. Back comes Ben Stokes, who was rested after his exploits as Test captain this summer, while Liam Livingstone and Chris Jordan are back after injury.
How busy is the treatment room?
Skipper Jos Buttler spent the entire Pakistan tour as an observer, declining to risk the calf injury that first emerged during The Hundred. He is confident of reclaiming the reins from Moeen Ali, and will be happy to have seen Mark Wood and Chris Woakes both get two games under their belt. The experienced seamers have both been out since March but were considered crucial enough to the plan to travel anyway. There has already been an admission that Livingstone (ankle) could be ‘undercooked’ as he battles to reach match fitness, while Jordan’s spell out with a fractured finger means he will need to prove his readiness.
What has changed since England’s semi-final defeat in last year’s edition?
Most obviously, the captaincy. The inspirational Eoin Morgan retired in the summer, having given up on turning around his waning form. Long-planned succession duly followed, but the downturn in results against South Africa and India was less expected and Buttler may still be getting to grips with the job. At the top of the order, Jason Roy has been dropped and Jonny Bairstow has been crocked, meaning an unexpected return for the divisive Alex Hales. He is the country’s most travelled franchise cricketer and likes Australian conditions, so carries big expectations. In the middle order, Harry Brook’s emergence as a star in the making appears to have plugged the Morgan gap more successfully than anyone dared to hope for.
What chance do England have of taking home the trophy?
Moeen made a point of putting forward hosts Australia and world number ones India as the most fancied sides and the bookies agree. England are generally available at about 4/1, making them third favourites. They are grouped with their Ashes rivals in the Super 12 stage, so will get an early chance to benchmark themselves against the holders.
Can England unlock Stokes?
Given his peerless status within English cricket, Stokes’ T20I record makes for curious reading. He has played just 34 times in the format and last took the field for his country almost 18 months ago. As a batter he has been particularly under-utilised, with a top-score of 47no, an average of 20.09 and a relatively modest strike-rate of 136.84. Buttler has made it clear he has no intention of wasting his explosiveness and competitive spirit in the lower order anymore and has earmarked a spot at number four. Having showed his pedigree up the order in the Indian Premier League, he will be eager to make his presence felt on the global stage.
What is their biggest weakness?
Death bowling. The ongoing absence of Jofra Archer continues to sting and their inability to shut things down at the business end ultimately led to their exit from last year’s World Cup. Jordan had a bad day at a bad time but came back fitter, stronger and more able to land his top pace over the summer and will keep putting his hand up for the role. Left-armer Reece Topley has also emerged as an option and should find conditions suited to his high release.
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