Opinion: England's T20 woes set to continue

Blog Opinion

Even the most optimistic of England supporters hold out very little hope of England even getting into the semi-finals never mind winning the thing. They simply aren't even close to being one of the best four teams in the tournament.

After a few years of success that restored some pride in English cricket, England have fallen and fallen hard. The tour of Australia was, you thought, as bad as it got, yet Andy Flower warned that things will get worse before they get better.

It certainly looks that way. The last five months have seen England play some of their worst cricket in living memory.

Weirdly, England scraped a series win in a one day international series with their T20 squad and then promptly lost the T20 series with their World T20 squad. For two of the three matches, they were woeful. Not helped by the inept misreading of the pitch and hence utterly wrong team selection.

One close win in a dead rubber against a weakened side at the end of a lost series cannot disguise the gaping issues England have as they head into a World tournament. Since the start of 2013, they've played 13 T20s and won just four of them.

Whichever way you look at it, it's a dismal record and one that tells a tale of a side which is unsettled, unclear on how to win in Twenty20 cricket, lacking in big hitters, spin bowlers and consistently good death bowlers.

Even the most optimistic of England supporters hold out very little hope of England even getting into the semi-finals never mind winning the thing. They simply aren't even close to being one of the best four teams in the tournament.

England don't even know what their best team is. They now have just two warm-up matches to try and figure it out.

Expectations on this England team are even lower than their footballing counterparts in their forthcoming World tournament. There's hope that England's football team may progress out of their group.

England's cricketers face South Africa, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Ireland in their group, and it isn't being overly pessimistic to think these 15 players and their 15 million support staff may well be on early flights back to Heathrow.

The planning for this tournament has been practically non-existent. The fact that two matches before an International tournament, England were handing out caps to two debutants tells its own story. Some of it is bad luck – Joe Root's injury – some of it scrambled thinking, some of it purely lack of thinking.

The World T20 happens every two years without fail. It hasn't just been sprung on them out of the blue and they had to throw together their best guess at a squad. But that's certainly how it looks from the outside.

There are gaps throughout the squad. This is clearly a squad with an eye on the future. But when it comes to limited overs International tournaments, England supporters are sick of hearing that the squad is being built for future tournaments.

Would it be too painful to pick the best guys around who may not be for the future but who might just win you a tournament right here, right now? Players such as Darren Stevens, Graham Napier, Peter Trego would provide experience, knowledge and power hitting.

Compare England's batting line up to that of the West Indies, Australia, South Africa, India, Pakistan, New Zealand. All of those teams have two, three or more big hitters who can go hard in the powerplay going over the top of the in-field or blast Darren Sammy style at the end of the innings.

With the exception of Eoin Morgan (who's not in great form) and Jos Buttler (who only comes off every 3 or 4 games) England don't have batsmen who scare bowlers. They don't have a McCullum, a Finch, a Gayle, a Sammy or an Afridi. They are, in short, lightweight.

In the three game short series, England used three different blokes at number 3. None of them successful. Morgan is, on paper, England's most important batsman but he's just back from an injury and in the four innings he's played during this tour of the West Indies hasn't scored more than 19. Ben Stokes, the only shining light from the Australia tour, has only managed 13 runs in 5 matches.

As it has been throughout the winter, England's batting has been found wanting. Even when, as they did in the final match, they find success in the powerplay they then flounder through the middle overs. A successful game plan cannot be based around Chris Jordan smashing three sixes from the final over.

Why are England so consistently poor in Twenty20 cricket? There'll be a postmortem after England's inevitable failure in Bangladesh. Some of it will be put down to a young inexperienced squad but that's not a good enough reason.

Is it because English players don't play in the IPL? Is the quality (or lack of) in the English T20 competition? Is it English county pitches? Is it an inherent conservatism in the English game? It's a combination of all of those things and more.

Being unorthodox is frowned upon in England, as natural 'see ball hit ball' talent isn't nurtured. Anything other than orthodox spin bowling is positively discouraged (look up the example of Maurice Holmes).

The very nature of having 18 counties means that the quality of the competition will probably be lower. Many think that a city franchise T20 competition in England would boost the quality and therefore help boost the national side. There's merit in this argument although plenty of logical arguments that say City Franchises wouldn't work in England.

It's not as simple as thinking an English Big Bash League would automatically improve the England team. The problems run deeper than that. Some of it's a mind set. Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler are the closet England come to a Gayle or a Finch or a McCullum. They both have the potential to be consistently destructive but they aren't at the moment.

Maybe it's not all doom and gloom. There are signs that things may well be better in the future and with a couple of changes, this squad could well be competitive in a couple of year's time at the next World T20. Mind you, that's what we said last time. And the previous 50 over World Cup. And the one before that.

The relationship between England and limited overs cricket is not a fun-filled one. It's a never-ending battle. One that other countries on the world stage just don't seem to face.

There's much to be learnt from Australia, New Zealand, West Indies, India and Pakistan about the approach to Twenty20 cricket both domestically and internationally. In the meantime, I wouldn't put any of your hard earned pennies on England lifting a trophy anytime soon.

<b>Lizzy Ammon</b>

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