England and their quest for white-ball dominance

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20 Oct 2021 | 01:20 PM
authorAakash Sivasubramaniam

England and their quest for white-ball dominance

Very rarely you meet sides that are dominant, very rarely in white-ball and then you have England, who are both

Prior to the recency bias, England as a cricketing team were a flawed concept in white-ball cricket; they always had the talent and skills but never the mindset. After their crash in the 2015 World Cup, Andrew Strauss and Eoin Morgan, with no words minced chalked out a plan that would go on to define the nature of white-ball cricket: aggression and dominance. 

When they lost the 2016 T20 World Cup off the last over, the questions still remained, whether England could live up to a promise. In 2019, when Morgan lifted the trophy at Lord’s, it was a surreal moment. England had truly arrived on the top-draw with their white-ball form.

T20I rankings are often not the best indicators but England walk into this year’s T20 World Cup as the No.1 ranked team in the shortest format. They even have the best T20I batsman – Dawid Malan and the fourth-best bowler, in Adil Rashid. But the question remains, can England do a double, winning the 50 and the 20 over competition? 

Where England could swing away as winners?

Amongst the top ten T20I teams, since 2019, England have had a sizeable advantage at the top of the order in the powerplay, where they have raced off to great starts. In the first six overs, England have a strike-rate of 142.8, showing how they have based their style of play on aggression, striking a boundary every 4.7th ball, the best record amongst the top ten nations.

Between England and Australia, who are placed second, there is a difference of +4 strike-rate, and a +0.3 run-rate, showing how their approach at the top has been: explosive. England’s flexibility is unreal, they have slotted in Jos Buttler and Jason Roy as the openers and still have n number of options at the top.  

While neither of Buttler or Roy features in the top ten openers, they have in between them scored 634 runs for England, averaging 64.8 and 44.29 respectively but striking at 150. And with their No.3 batsman being Dawid Malan, who also happens to the best T20I batsman, with an average of 45.33 and a strike-rate of 136.6, it reduces the pressure from the middle-order.

England’s middle-overs batting has also been extremely aggressive, with them scoring at 147.6, at 8.9 RPO, striking a boundary every 5.8th delivery. If England are going to fully utilize their batting resources, like Chennai Super Kings did in the IPL, it would be tough for teams to catch up with the scoring rate. 

Opportunities

In the absence of Ben Stokes and Sam Curran, a bulk of the all-round responsibilities lie on the shoulders of the Birmingham Phoenix’ duo Liam Livingstone and Moeen Ali. While Livingstone wasn’t quite his natural self in the IPL, the form of the Chennai all-rounder Moeen is a massive boost. Ask why? It is crucial to understand how this England team functions, a) they are quite explosive, b) they keep attacking, c) they have to somehow replace Ben Stokes.

Now all of the above three is directly or indirectly linked to the absence of Stokes and Curran. The two were integral parts of the T20I setup for the Three Lions. But with the lack of form for skipper Eoin Morgan, England desperately need another left-hander in the top six to complement their playing style, which is where Moeen walks in.  

With Moeen, England have a player of multiple roles, could play at No.3, in case they get themselves off to a flyer, can surely work as a pinch-hitter against spinners and could also deliver some overs of off-spin. If England do use their resources properly, read Moeen, they might not be in front of the opponents but very well dominate them. 

Weakness and the disarray

In Jofra and Curran’s absence, England have plenty of issues with the new ball, starting from who takes the new nut. While David Willey and Saqib Mahmood shared the new ball in the series against Pakistan, there exists a big worry over who will really make the place their own. Amongst the top ten nations since 2019, England’s powerplay numbers are fifth-best, with 51 wickets, averaging 29.2 runs/wicket, 21.9 balls/wicket, which obviously has been one of their weaknesses, the inability to pick up wickets in the powerplay. 

While there is no simple solution to the complex problem, England could figure the puzzle out with some unique choices, using Chris Woakes alongside David Willey with the new ball, and later use the raw pace of Mark Wood to get hold of the middle-overs but that leaves them without Jordan, their leading wicket-taker in T20Is. Unlike other sides, England have employed a rather contrasting strategy in the middle-overs: using a pace enforcer. 

In the overs 7-15, England have picked up the most wickets using pacers, 48 wickets, averaging 24.6 and at an economy of 8, which makes them a dangerous unit in the middle-overs. England’s bowling as an overall unit will be a weak point heading into the World T20, given how they have just the one specialist spinner, in the form of Adil Rashid.

Barring the bowling conundrum, the Three Lions have another glaring issue, that has been swept under the carpet: Eoin Morgan’s form. Something that could substantially take a hit on their batting at the death, a phase where they find themselves behind Pakistan, New Zealand, South Africa and India. Since 2020, the southpaw averages just 24.85 with the bat, at a strike-rate of 134.5.

Further to England’s horror, in the 2021 IPL, Morgan averaged 11.08 and struck at 95.7, the lowest for any skipper in the tournament.

Players to watch out for


Liam Livingstone might be the most straightforward name in this England squad but his form in the IPL was a big worry. The Three Lions would hope that Livingstone walks with the mentality that he had in The Hundred, where he was the top-run scorer in the tournament, with 348 runs, at an astonishing average of 58 and a strike-rate of 178.46. With the ball, he picked up five wickets but England would need more from him in the global event, considering how the pitches in the Middle East have behaved lately. 

Another player that could potentially walk out as a match-winner for England is David Willey. Yes, he hasn’t played a lot in the shortest format for England but in Curran’s absence, he might very well be the first name to replace him. Willey might have played just four games for England since 2020 but his consistency in T20s, with an average of 22 with the ball since 2020, he might be key.

Probable XI

Jos Buttler (wk), Jason Roy, Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Eoin Morgan (c), Liam Livingstone, David Willey, Chris Jordan, Mark Wood, Adil Rashid

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England vs West IndiesICC World Twenty20, 2021EnglandEoin MorganTymal MillsDavid WilleyMoeen AliLiam LivingstoneJonny BairstowJos ButtlerJason Roy

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