England’s preparations for the next ICC tournament continue on Wednesday when they begin their IT20 series in South Africa.
Two of Captain Morgan’s star players, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, will return to the fold, while South Africa will be boosted by the presence of the irrefutable Dale Steyn as Quinton de Kock once again takes the captaincy for a white-ball series.
One of T20 cricket’s most endearing qualities is its ability to level the contest–a shorter game is, after all, a more open one. With that in mind, any side that manages to put a run together over the next few months will hit the World T20 in form and that may well prove to be key. England’s rise to 50-over glory took them four years but the shortest form of the game is often more about peaking. If either side can put in a strong performance or two here, that will give them more than enough encouragement.
The winning formula
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With just over six months until the start of the tournament, both sides will be eager to find a formula that works. By that, we mean a top order that can dominate during the powerplays, a middle order that can play spin, and a bowling attack that is both frugal and penetrative.
England have messed around a little with their top order over the past few years in T20 cricket; they’ve experimented with Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, and Alex Hales all in the top two, while the recent form of Tom Banton adds another potential component. They’ll need to stick with a combination before too long, though, to give the two chosen batsmen time enough to get used to each other. It seems logical to go with Bairstow and Roy, such has been their dominance in white-ball cricket, but there are cases to be made for all of the alternatives.
In the bowling department, the Curran brothers, Chris Jordan, Saqib Mahmood, and Matt Parkinson will all be looking to push the first-XI regulars. With so much strength in depth, England will feel confident of producing the goods in this series regardless of who gets the nod. Competition for places is always a positive and Eoin Morgan’s men certainly have that.
Possible England XI: Roy, Bairstow, Buttler, Morgan (c), Stokes, Banton, Moeen, Tom Curran, Jordan, Rashid, Mahmood
It’s almost impossible to view this series outside of the ICC tournament’s context. Sporting success is, after all, judged in trophies. Both of these sides, however, have more than enough to entertain us in their own rights. Expect a tight contest between two excellent units.
England are blessed with some very talented cricketers, and they will be desperate to make the most of this current crop by winning another tournament. They’ll want to start well here, as the countdown to Australia begins.