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England shine bright amidst tough conditions in Abu Dhabi

Last updated on 27 Oct 2021 | 01:30 PM
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England shine bright amidst tough conditions in Abu Dhabi

On a tricky surface in Abu Dhabi, there was a big doubt over England's chances against Bangladesh

Coming into the tournament, there was an element of doubt over whether the Three Lions led by Eoin Morgan could seal the void left by Ben Stokes, Sam Curran and Jofra Archer. While it was not possible to replace them, Morgan’s new tactics have got off to a grand success in the first two games. 

England were still not weak but in conditions similar to Bangladesh’s back home, there was that doubt over how Morgan’s men could go past Bangladesh. With just one specialist spinner in the line-up, was Adil Rashid going to be enough to cause the damage for England? That’s exactly where Morgan's men kept their reputation of being a data-driven side.

In their opening clash against West Indies, Morgan pulled the rabbit out of his hat – bowling Moeen Ali in the powerplay. Prior to this encounter, the off-spinner had bowled 25.2 overs in the Indian Premier League, for the Chennai Super Kings this season but none with the new ball. In fact, he was more utilized in the middle-overs, where he went for 6.5 RPO. 

But when the off-spinner picked up three wickets in the powerplay against West Indies, it was a sign of things to come in the T20 World Cup. However, the question remained, England could get past West Indies easily with spin but against Bangladesh, they needed more (spin)? 

Moeen Ali – England’s new trump card

Coming into the T20 World Cup, the off-spinner had just bowled nine overs in the powerplay since 2019, picking up two wickets. An economy rate of 9.3 and an average of 42 is all that he had managed. However, England sprung a complete surprise against West Indies when the off-spinner was handed the new ball. 

Against Bangladesh, he was deployed yet again with the brand-new ball, where he picked up two wickets to push the Tigers back. While it has worked thus far, owing to the match-ups, with a left-right combination at the top, it would be interesting to see what they can do against other sides. Six overs, four wickets and at an economy rate of 5.5, the resurgence of Moeen Ali as a spinner has come in as a trump card for Eoin Morgan in the powerplay.

While the experiment to push him at the top of the order to dash the innings against West Indies failed, there seems to be a real chance that it could pay off in the future, considering the form that left-hander is in.

Is there a case for Bangladesh to push Shakib at the top?

Interestingly, Bangladesh’s management has backed the experienced opener Liton Das. However, there seems to be a real case of worry for them with the 27-year-old at the top of the order. In 2021, the Bangladeshi opener has just scored 140 runs, at an average of 10.8, which is only behind Zimbabwe’s opener Tadiwanashe Marumani, who averages 10.7 in the year.

Since the start of the year, the southpaw has faced 121 balls in the first six overs, that’s just over 20 overs, where he averages 39.33. While he might not be the most expressive of options at the top, there might be a real case for Bangladesh to try it out. Das is a slow starter and having him open the innings might allow the Tigers to optimize his values during the field restrictions. 

The likes of Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah were underutilized in the middle, which makes a compelling case for them to try Das at the top. While Shakib has very rarely opened the innings, it might be integral to the team’s plans to have him exploit the field restriction.

Tymal Mills has made England’s bowling formidable

England were already strong but not quite formidable walking into the tournament, but the return of Tymal Mills has certainly solved a lot of the management’s headaches. Mills’ versatility with the new ball and the ability to bowl the hard overs has pushed him above David Willey in the pecking order. And in the opening two games, he has shown why he deserved all the opportunity. 

A pattern that emerged in both the games was Mills’ ability to toy with the batters using his plethora of variations. With Chris Woakes in the England setup, Morgan has resorted to the left-arm pacer exclusively in the middle and death overs. 

Mills has responded brilliantly, with five wickets in the tournament, three at the death, conceding runs at just 5.5. In T20s at the death (16-20), the left-arm pacer has the best economy rate, at 7.41, which shows that even at the absence of several high-profile stars, England might be well and truly favorites for the title. 

Now it might be too early to call England formidable but with the ability of the left-arm pacer yet to be completely explored, there seems to be a genuine chance that his return to the English setup has been fruitful.

England’s batting unfazed by all the noise

Tough batting conditions, two sides faltering with the bat, it didn’t put England off their feet. In fact, it only propelled them to score at a quicker rate, against both West Indies and Bangladesh. Across the two games in the powerplay, the Three Lions have scored 89 runs, at a strike-rate of 123.6, at 7.4 RPO. 

Among openers who have scored 200+ runs in the competition, Jason Roy is only behind Imran Nazir in terms of the best strike rate for openers, with 148.1. Roy also became the second English opener to record multiple 50+ scores in the T20 World Cup, with 38-ball 61 against the Tigers. Only Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, have scored a higher strike-rate throughout the innings than England in this year’s competition, showing how they have not stepped down pace. 

With a perfect blend of left-right in the setup, England have so far been unfazed by all the noise of how batting has been tough in these conditions. Just two games in, Eoin Morgan’s men are looking strong for the title.

"It's a huge compliment to how far out white-ball cricket in general has come along, a lot of players involved in the 2019 World Cup success and that's lent itself to T20 cricket as well. [Roy] It's nice for him and Dawid to get some time at the wicket. The way Jason plays is so imposing, makes it difficult to set fields, so great to see him in good touch," said Morgan at the post-match presentation.

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