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England v Australia

‘England underrate him’ – Why David Willey should open the bowling for England in T20 cricket

david willey
by Wisden Staff 5 minute read

Despite England’s recent good form in T20I cricket – they’ve won 10 of their last 14 completed matches – taking wickets up front remains somewhat of a problem.

They’ve taken just three Powerplay wickets in their last six matches, two of those coming from Moeen Ali’s off-spin. Those new ball struggles puts the omission of David Willey – a highly regarded new ball T20 bowler – for the Australia series under the spotlight.

On the most recent episode of the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast, Wisden Cricket Monthly magazine editor Jo Harman and CricViz analyst Ben Jones discussed the absence of Willey from the England squad.

Jo Harman: On the face of it, it’s harsh in that he was unlucky to miss out on the World Cup when Jofra Archer arrived and then he said himself that he fell out of love for the game a little bit and when he did get his chance against Ireland, he did do very well. So it does seem harsh. But, looking at it from England’s perspective, David Willey doing well against Ireland – does that prove much either way? I’m not really sure it does and if you compare him to Sam Curran, who’s basically taken his place, I think they think that Sam Curran has a higher ceiling and brings a bit more to the group as a whole.

Right now, I think that Willey is a better pick than Sam Curran in both white-ball formats but whether that’s the case in a year or two years, that’s what they’ve got to decide; Curran is 22, Willey is 30. If they’re thinking about the two T20 World Cups in the space of two years, I’m not that surprised that they’ve gone for Sam Curran, even though it is another very unfortunate situation for Willey, who’s basically done nothing wrong.

Ben Jones: I think it’s worth underlining quite how good David Willey is in the Powerplay. Nobody in T20 history has taken more wickets at a lower strike-rate than Willey [in the Powerplay]. He’s fantastic in that phase. He’s a fantastic player and I think England do underrate him. Partly because there’s also that element of people thinking, ‘Oh, he’s a batsman too and he hasn’t really done it with the bat’ so there’s that sense of him being a slightly unfulfilled talent. It’s also worth underlining quite how bad England are in the Powerplay with the ball.

Their strike-rate [in the Powerplay] this year…they take a wicket every 60 balls. Of all international teams ever, all teams, no team has ever had a worse strike-rate in the Powerplay in a calendar year as England in 2020 [min. five games]. At the moment, they are terrible at bowling in the Powerplay. What they need to do is just get back to basics a little bit.

They’re picking Saqib Mahmood on potential but he’s a very young bowler, he’s learning his trade at this level, I think it’s quite harsh to expect him to be England’s new ball bowler in the World Cup when David Willey is still there and saying, ‘I still do it, I offer a left-arm angle, I’m swinging it, I’m a demonstrably different bowler to everyone else in this side.’

He’s got experience in Australia playing for Perth Scorchers, in a winning Perth Scorchers side, albeit a few years ago, and there’s going to be a T20 World Cup in Australia shortly after the one in India. England don’t need to overthink it. Their best new ball attack is still Willey and Archer. They offer entirely different threats. Left-arm and right-arm, they offer swing and pace, tight lines and pitching it up, they have everything there.

That should be, I think, one of the best new ball pairings in the world in T20 cricket yet England seem to be getting a little bit confused with it. There’s probably good reason for it, but I’m not quite sure why they’re not just saying, ‘David Willey, you’re the best T20 bowler we have, play.’

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