Just How good are England part 2
Having already covered the purest form of the game I now turn to the one England seem to be prizing the most; T20i’s. England's T20 squad is looking as strong as ever and the supposed riches they have in their batting are amazing, or are they. As in the previous piece i will be drawing up an Xi of players who are supposedly just on the cusp on the actual starting Xi or England clearly value as a backup (there will be no James Vince so if you’re here for that then sorry)
Much like in the test side I will first establish the first string T20 side. To open it’s obvious Roy and Buttler, the worlds no1 t20 batsmen Dawid Malan slots in at 3, Bairstow is at 4 with Stokes at 5, Morgan in his new finisher role is at 6 with Sam Curran at 7, Chris Jordan is then at 8 Tom Curran at 9 Jofra Archer at 10 and Adil Rashid at 11. As with the test side this may not be my first choice Xi but it’s the Xi that remained unchanged throughout the South Africa tour.
The change from the first part of the series though is that I will be measuring this side as if they were partaking in the world cup later this year. Just how would they fair?
So onto the seconds, the ones who are nearly there but not quite.
Tom Banton was the first name down for me. Anyone who has read my last piece, The Mercurial case of Tom Banton, will have got a slight feeling that I love Banton. His explosive power and fast hands make him a joy to watch. Clearly the second string opener as he was recalled against Pakistan as Jason Roy fell injured and he didn’t disappoint. His knock of 71 off 40 odd was one of my innings of the summer, it had sixes, power, ramps etc etc. Banton is a truly magnificent player and is almost a guarantee for the plane to India later this year. Honestly if one of England's first choice openers were to get injured Banton is more than capable to fill in and England can’t do much worse. There is definitely a case to be made that with Roys poor form and if Bairstow carries on like he has at number 4 that Banton should be a part of the first team.
Selecting the second opener was a tricky one. Ideally i would’ve had Alex Hales, but when thinking about it if he was allowed back into the setup he would be in the first team as he is England's best T20 opener. Anyway after much debate I settled for Phil Salt. Now whilst Salt hasn’t been in many England t20 squads there is good reason for this, if Roy or Buttler gets injured then England will have Banton or Bairstow to fill in; even Dawid Malan. But Salt is the only one I can think of not in England's first Xi who isn’t Banton. Salt plays the morgan way and wacks it. His strike rate in BBL09 was one of the best in the tournament's history and his 54 ball 100 for England A against Ireland is a knock that put his name firmly in the hat. In an age of batting riches for the England white ball setup Salt may drift to the side but in a few years he could well establish himself as one of England's most destructive players.
At number 3 it’s Joe Root. Root is a peculiar player. At the start of the summer i was part of the camp of Root over Malan in t20i’s, i personally believed that Root offered more when you throw in his bowling and fielding and i also believed Root was the better batsmen. Malan undoubtedly, comprehensively proved me wrong. Now that’s not to say that Root is a bad T20 batsman (just look at his numbers and some of his knocks) just at the moment Malan is undroppable and performing to a level never seen before. Anyway, Root is a very very good T20 batsmen and if Malan got injured then there is no doubt in my mind Morgan would turn to his anchor. Very few players possess the same ability as Root to rotate, to gather runs and to play the right shots on tricky wickets. His 83 off 44 against South Africa in the 2016 world cup (by the way he finished as England's leading run scorer) was a T20 knock of genius, he accelerated well, played the pitch and situation right and played every shot in the book. Root is an invaluable asset especially in India on spinning pitches and personally whilst he may not start he’s on that plane for me. However for the here and now he is undoubtedly England's backup and there’s no argument why he shouldn’t be, he can walk into any situation and help out because he’s one of the best to ever put on the three Lions and it’s that simple.
The middle order was a slightly trickier one. So at number 4 we have Joe Denly. The England set up have tried desperately for it to work for Denly in the shortest format and it’s understandable to see why. The Kent man boasts an impressive T20 record and was the blast MVP in 2018. Middling returns from his T20i performances so far saw him earn a white ball contract for England and then lose it this summer. Yet Denly was played out of position, primarily performing as an opener for Kent Denly was made to be a finisher for England and it’s no wonder his returns were meh. In this side he’s batting at 4 and is allowed a bit of time to get his eye in and then use his power hitting at the death. Denly is clearly England's second in line for the middle order berth and although he wasn’t in recent squads it would surprise no one if he gets chosen again later on down the line. For now though he’s in the teal of the Heat and part of this Xi.
At number 5 I have gone for Liam Livingstone. Livingstone is very clearly in England's mind for the coming future in both the shorter formats. A true power hitter whose favourite shot is a hoike to the leg side for six; Livingstone is exhilarating to watch. His strike rate of 147 in his only ipl stint for Rajasthan, though at the top of the order, shows his ability to not only truly whack it but whack it from ball one a skill which England were crying out for before Eoin Morgan suddenly hit a second peak. With the current strength of the middle order of England's white ball sides it’s tough to see Livingstone getting a gig but his consistent performances in the BBL and the Blast can only help his case. Livingstone was an obvious inclusion and one which i believe not many England fans disagree with (or even just cricket fans in general). His filthy leggies are also good enough to take up at least one over with Denly and Root taking another.
At number 6 and taking the gloves I've opted for Sam Billings. Billings in England's white ball setup is a lot like Joe Denly in the red ball truly perplexing. “Bilbo”, as he is known by his teammates' ' is a truly gifted batsmen especially in the shortest format and he has only just started to show his true prowess in an England shirt. An outstanding summer with match winning knocks against Ireland and his maiden hundred against Australia have promoted Billings to the top of the pack of England's next batch of One Day batsmen but Billings has never shown his true form in T20i’s. However England clearly like Billings and it’s pretty simple to see why, a good player of spin and the ability for some true power hitting along with his glovework make him a very reliable backup option and on slower more turgid pitches don’t be surprised if he is on the plane to India in a few months time. Billings' standout knock came against the West Indies in early 2019 when he played himself in and then accelerated at an extraordinary rate when he robbed 44 runs from the final 12 balls with some outstanding shot making. Billings is also the captain of the side with him having the most experience captaining a white ball side Joe Root is his vice captain.
At number 7 I have Moeen Ali. Now Moeen may not have much of a future in the long term, I believe rightfully so, but in the short term he is invaluable to the England side. Moeen is a match winner we all know this and he nearly showed it against Pakistan this summer in the second T20i in which he almost made the impossible possible with his clean hitting and beautiful stroke play. When Moeen was at the crease and striking it as he was i think all of us believed. Nevertheless Moeen is clearly the second in line for the number 7 spot after Sam Curran, who after a magnificent IPL and a not bad series against South Africa took Moeens spot. Moeen is enticing as a cricketer as we all know how good his highs are but we also know how low his lows have been. Moeen is invaluable not only to this side but the England T20 set up as a whole; Moeen makes them a stronger squad and can come in and do something special. Like it or not Moeen Ali is a very very good cricketer and one who may see a late resurgence when put on the big pressure stage of a world cup.
Number 8 is the man who everyone loves except those who matter, David Willey. Nobody in the history of T20is has taken wickets in the powerplay at a better strike rate than Willey and for some reason England, who struggle to not only swing the ball but take powerplay wickets, won’t play him. A man of the series performance and a maiden ODI 5 for against Ireland saw him dropped when Pakistan rolled into town. For this side he is quite obviously taking the new ball with his left arm option also very useful. Not only this but his batting adds to the depth of the side as Willey has been known to open the batting for Yorkshire. Willey should be in the current England T20i side but he isn’t and it perplexes every England supporter. With England's lack of top quality backup bowlers Willey is undoubtedly the best backup they have and don’t be surprised if he plays at some point during the next home summer with England having so many games. Willey is also captain of Yorkshire and can help out in that regard.
Coming in at number 9 I went for Mark Wood. Alright here me out, Wood’s stats in the format may not be exceptional but at the same time England clearly value him. Included in the past 2 squads for England's tours to South Africa and is a very very good bowler. His raw pace is a true asset to any side and whilst his control was a bit wayward in his previous T20i’s in South Africa he was taking the new ball, which he has openly said he doesn’t enjoy as he finds it too slippy, and from there pressure built on him to perform at the death when he is a cannier bowler than you think. Wood is a fabulous cricketer and everyone knows it and when discussing the second string England Xi he absolutely makes the squad. His batting whilst not amazing is ok and he can definitely add some power hitting later down the order.
At number 10 I went for Reece Topley. Topley returned to England action last summer for a sole ODI against Ireland and with great success and bowled some very tidy overs. He may not have played a T20i since 2016 but his recent returns in the Blast suggest Topley still has what it takes. England obviously value Topley as he was included in the T20 side for South Africa. A good opening bowler and increasingly impressive at the death he was the main man in Surrey's attack. Topley is a solid bowler and one who can definitely do a job when called upon for England. For the sake of Balance it does mean Moeen will be the leading spinner but Denly and Root are both good enough with the ball to make up 4 overs between them (with Livingstone having one thrown in there). Topley will be taking the new ball with Willey and also chipping in at the death and the middle overs
At number 11 I went for Saqib Mahmood. I went for Mahmood for the balance of the side with Moeen being my front line spinner. Mahmood will be most likely performing the Tom Curran role with the last over of the powerplay one in the middle and some at the death. Whilst it may have been personal bias that drove me towards Mahmood, with his death overs in the roses clash a few years back being one of the best T20 spells i’ve seen for a while, but i do feel Mahmood offers more to England in the long term than most and he is one of the true T20 bowlers who England clearly value. A truly gifted cricketer, who has not hit the ground running in international cricket but has shown huge signs of improvement, Mahmood is absolutely a quality T20 bowler and can offer England so much in years to come. Ideally I would've had Tymal Mills in my side for his supreme death bowling but England are showing no signs of choosing him so it was Mahmood. Mahmood is one of the next in line for the T20 side and soon we will see the best of Mahmood wearing the three lions.
At number 11 i have gone for
Honorable mention to Matt Parkinson who is 12th man and interchangeable with his Lancashire teammate Mahmood depending on the surface. Parkinson is one of my favourite cricketers and was ever so close to the side but due to balance in the bowling i opted for Mahmood.
There it is the England T20i second string Xi. The side has some good batting depth and absolutely highlights the amount of strength England have in their batting depth. That top 7 is a side capable of chasing down and posting big totals. Yet the bowling side, especially the pace bowling, is somewhat weak and shows how reliant England are on the likes of Jordan and Archer. With Tymal Mills nowhere near the set up I do believe this is Englands strongest most balanced second attack when you take into account who they are likely to pick. This is a side that could compete but would be heavily reliant on their batting and in the bowling they would need Willey and Wood to perform. The middle overs would be full of spin from the likes of Root and Moeen and some pace from Mahmood and wood.
If this side was in next year's world cup i do believe they could qualify for the knockouts but not comfortably their lack of pace bowling would let them down but the amount of spin could benefit them.
What do you think of the side? Let me @therunoutblog1 on Twitter!