England have most bases covered, the right players are in and around the side and I believe next month’s World T20 can be approached with a huge amount of confidence. They do, however, still need to resolve the issue of their death bowling.
I have written about it before but England chop and change their death bowlers far too often. During their two T20 clashes against South Africa tomorrow and on Sunday, I hope we learn who will bowl those crucial overs at the tournament.
Death bowling is such a massive thing in T20. The final few overs of an innings can change the course of a game completely and that’s why England need to fully nail down who their best two performers at that stage of a game are before they depart for India.
Looking at their options, all-rounder Chris Jordan’s other overs in a match seem to let him down – he goes for far too many runs – but he can bowl yorkers really well at the back end of an innings so he’s a prime candidate.
Seamer Reece Topley’s all-round skills are impressive although, along with fellow left-armer David Willey, he is relatively inexperienced. It would be a big responsibility but I feel they’d both be able to deal with it.
Test star Ben Stokes is in there too, as is Steven Finn, but for me he is not a death bowler. Finn needs to bowl with the harder ball, bang it in and try to nip it around early on.
Jordan and Topley bowled the final two overs in England’s 44-run warm-up victory against South Africa A last night but it will be interesting to see who gets thrown the ball tomorrow.
It all boils down to each individual, whether batsman or bowler, knowing their role in the team, and players in the squad who are not set to start also understanding what is expected of them should they be called upon.
I was essentially a squad player during the 50-over World Cup in 2011 but ended up playing in the quarter-final against Sri Lanka. I had a rough idea of when I was going to bowl but certainly it could have been clearer what my role was going to be.
T20 is a different format of course and it should be far easier to formulate a plan as to when a certain player is going to bowl and how long that spell is likely to be, notwithstanding that things can change as the contest unfolds.
Such clarity also reflects on your quality of practice. As a bowler, if you know you’re going to bowl a couple of overs at the start with the new ball and then a couple in the middle, you can replicate those scenarios in the nets.
By the same token, if you know you’re going to bowl at the end, you can practice by honing the skills you will need, such as yorkers or slower balls, rather than just running up and bowling willy nilly.
I really don’t want to see England’s death bowlers being changed every other game in the World T20 but, as I say, they have come so far in such a short space of time and have a real chance next month. That goes to show the extent of their transformation in white-ball cricket because I certainly didn’t think I would be saying that not so long ago.