@Ben_Wisden 5 minute read
England announced their 15-strong squad for the 2021 T20 World Cup squad last week, with the group picked giving plenty of indication as to how Eoin Morgan and Co. intend to attempt to win the tournament.
But there remain several questions facing the make-up of the side.
Where does Liam Livingstone bat?
Liam Livingstone is, perhaps, the most in-form T20 batsman on the planet. He has spent the summer in a variety of shirts and a variety of white-ball formats, the only constant being him smashing whoever’s bowling at him an unfathomable distance. This is his time, his moment, and England will want to make the most of a rare talent at his peak.
The problem is, there isn’t much space for him in the plum positions. England’s top five is set, with Jason Roy and Jos Buttler smashing the new ball, Dawid Malan getting set and exploding at No.3, Jonny Bairstow tonking spin at No.4, and Eoin Morgan finishing things off in next. Livingstone is perfectly capable of performing the finisher’s role, of course. But could there be a way to squeeze more out of him? Some would argue he belongs in the top three, and that Moeen Ali and Sam Curran would make a perfectly fine six/seven combo. But given England’s faith in their existing top four, it might be that a promotion above Morgan is the best that can be hoped for.
Is there a way to fit in Moeen?
In teams and leagues around the world, Moeen Ali is a gun all-rounder. He commands monster fees in the IPL, has the highest strike-rate against spin of any T20 batsman, ever, and offers a valuable match-up option with the ball too. But England, of late, haven’t seen him that way, with the all-rounder competing with Sam Curran for a No.7 spot, and the left-armer edging the contest.
England haven’t picked many spinners, but that could go for or against Moeen. Either they will back him on pitches most think will turn, or they rate going in with plenty of quicks as their best chance of success. In India earlier this year, they favoured Curran, and it’s likely they will do so again.
What is the pace-bowling pecking order?
England have picked a surfeit of seamers for a tournament in the UAE, on the face of it the bravest of their decisions. They have one frontline spinner in their squad in Adil Rashid, two part-timers in Livingstone and Moeen, and Liam Dawson as a backup. India have picked five twirlers. One of them, you fancy, have got it wrong. Still, as far as England are concerned that doesn’t leave much room for selection debates in the spin department, as such, considering how few the options are. More interesting is which of the many fast-mediums fit into the XI.
Chris Jordan has been the mainstay, while Mark Wood has also made himself indispensable. Assuming one of Curran or Moeen plays as the all-rounder, with Livingstone the sixth bowler, that leaves one spot open.
Jofra Archer, unavailable through injury, did his best work with the new ball, and so England may pick an opening specialist to replace him, meaning Chris Woakes or David Willey might be the one to round out the attack. But Tymal Mills is, by some metrics, one of the best death bowlers in the world, exceptional in an area England have been weak in. Rashid has, at times, been used as a powerplay option, with Curran also a useful swinger. Could some combination of that pair and Wood in the opening six allow Jordan and Mills to turn the screw at the death?
Are there any bolters who could come in?
Ahead of the 2019 Cricket World Cup, England’s preliminary squad was very much that: preliminary. By the time the finalisation deadline came around, England saw sense to correct one Ed Smith punt, with Joe Denly very much not a backup spinner, and made the easiest decision in the world in adding Archer to the mix.
But then, there was a whole series against Pakistan and a season of the One-Day Cup before England had to make up their minds. This time, there is little opportunity for those outside the squad to press their case. George Garton and Tom Curran are the only English players in the IPL outside of the main squad, but neither is likely to get much opportunity, and it feels farfetched that any of the others could play themselves out of contention.
If you’re a member of Matt Parkinson’s growing fan club, your best hope, paradoxically, is his main competitor for a spot having a season to remember. If Rashid plays and stars, in conditions akin to those England will face at the global event, it could make Morgan and Silverwood rethink their spin-heavy strategy. It feels a long shot, however.