@Yas_Wisden 3 minute read
India levelled the series in the fourth T20I against England at Ahmedabad, becoming the first team in the series to win a game after batting first.
The win exposed a few areas of improvement still required for the number one ranked T20I side in the world, ones that the visitors will be hopeful of turning right ahead of the T20 World Cup later in the year.
A bowler light in the middle?
It’s less clear where Sam Curran fits into England’s plans with the ball when Adil Rashid, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood are all used in the powerplay, as they have been this series. Curran, who had cost just 6.38 runs per over bowled in the first three encounters of the series, conceded 16 from his sole over in the fourth T20I. It’s telling that the only game in which he has bowled four overs was the second T20I, which Wood missed through injury. The problem isn’t so much that Curran is bowling badly, it’s more that he’s not really bowling much at all.
He opened the bowling that game, starting with a wicket maiden in which he expertly deceived KL Rahul, getting the last ball of the over to hold its line after a number of in-swingers.
When he’s not opening the bowling, how effective is the youngest Curran brother? It’s hard to say, but Morgan certainly seems less willing to turn to him. Without Curran fulfilling his quota of overs, Morgan has used more of Ben Stokes. A useful sixth choice in T20 cricket, sure, but perhaps little more. Neither Stokes nor Curran are regular wicket-takers in the middle overs in the way Rashid or Wood – who, if they’re bowling more powerplay overs are available for fewer overs in the middle – are. Of England seamers to bowl in 10 or more T20Is, Curran and Stokes are among the five bowlers with the highest bowling averages.
Another strike bowler in those middle overs would be a real asset to this side. How they fit one in without significantly altering the balance of the side is a different question altogether.
Malan’s slow starts
There’s been plenty written about Dawid Malan’s cautious starts, how they’re high risk and how he’s better suited to come to the crease slightly later than he has been this series.
For all his excellence before the India tour, he has struggled thus far this series. Despite averaging 19.25 balls per innings, his strike-rate is only marginally above 100. Today, he took 14.17 per cent of the allotted deliveries to score 7.52 per cent of the required runs. When he doesn’t accelerate, those starts will and have hurt England.
Ben Stokes enjoyed an excellent run opening the batting for Rajasthan Royals at the end of the most recent IPL; moving Stokes up to the three would give one of England’s best players more of an opportunity to influence the game.
Chris Jordan’s form at the death
In a way, Chris Jordan’s recent career is similar to that of Malan’s in that both have generally reserved their best performances for England.
So far this series, Jordan – one of England’s go-to death options – has been conceding more than 13 runs per over in the last five overs of the innings. There are alternatives out there – namely Tymal Mills, David Willey or Saqib Mahmood – but with limited time before the T20 World Cup, it’s hard to see any of them getting a prolonged run in the side before then.
Lack of experience at seven
Despite a generally below-par performance, England did come very close to securing a series-sealing victory. Jofra Archer’s cameo took them within eight runs of India’s total after they looked well out of the game. With a little more support from England’s lower-order, he may well have taken England home.
England’s No. 7 this series has been Sam Curran, who despite an excellent IPL in 2020, has faced more than six balls in an innings just once for England in T20I cricket. There’s no doubting his talent, but England will want him to have experience of taking them over the line in tight encounters ahead of the T20 World Cup, assuming he retains his spot in the side. Finishing a chase is one of the hardest skills in the game; England have entrusted a mightily talented young man to do it, but for all his talent, he has minimal experience of actually pulling it off.
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