My Xi for the First T20i
White balls, Red and blue shirts, big sixes, done in 2 hours? Yes this is exactly what we all need at the moment. Over the next week England and India will tussle it out over 5 T20is and to be frank i’ve never been more excited. These are two high calibre sides filled with star players and I just want to see some good T20 cricket. England will need a big start to the series and I really do believe they have what it takes over the course of 5 games to give India a good run for their money.
As for the England squad well there are a few surprises. Matt Parkinson being in as a reserve came as a big shock as on a wicket that should become slow and low and offer turn Parkinson would thrive and once again the Lancastrian put up some serious numbers in the latest iteration of the Blast. Only having 1 front line spinner in Adil Rashid is a big gamble but that being said England are without Liam Dawson who you would imagine would’ve been in the squad had it not been for his injury. Personally I would’ve taken Lewis Gregory out with the side as I do feel he offers a lot to the team with both his bowling and pinch hitting lower down the order.
Jofra Archer looks as if he will have to miss the games with an elbow injury and so England are without their power play gun and could definitely struggle without him. But nonetheless the squad is strong and England as ever look a truly formidable outfit so here’s my Xi.
In my personal opinion everyone can agree, Morgan, Buttler, Malan, Jordan and Rashid all pick themselves and explaining their inclusion would just sound like a broken record player. In essence they’re all pretty good.
As for the rest of the side well. Liam Livingstone is someone who I am a huge fan of and I do believe can offer a lot to this England side going forward. Jason Roy looked horribly out of nick against George Linde especially and with India boasting Axar Patel and Jadeja (fitness permitting) I would be hesitant to start Roy from the off. I want to see Livingstone bat more for England as I do believe he is England's truest power hitter and can truly dismantle any bowling attack. He is also a more than handy bowling option with him and Moeen able to make up for one bowler themselves.
Sam Billings is one which I will cop a lot of stick for but here me out. Billings is coming off the back of a superb BBL and his reinvention of himself in the summer. Billings is regarded as one of England's best players of spin and I want to see him play a bit more before the World Cup just to see how he performs. England knows what Bairstow can offer to the side (spoiler: he's in my side for the 2nd game) but Billings is still somewhat of an unknown entity. Billings can not only be the middle order anchor but he is also a very very capable finisher.
Moeen for me is a shoe in for the side but this isn’t the common consensus. Moeen is one of England’s best ever T20 batsmen and he is a match winner, with both bat and ball, in its purest form. A dominant player of spin and able to roll his arm over to good effect Moeen is the sort of player you keep in the side knowing that he will make the impossible possible and to be honest he nearly did it this summer against Pakistan. As I said Moeen is a mainstay for me and if he doesn’t play all 5 of these T20i’s I for one will be very very disappointed.
The Curran brothers are also both very good bowlers and after a break from cricket for the eldest (Tom) I do think he will be rejuvenated and hopefully back to his best. Morgan likes Tom Curran and so do I; TC is still learning and developing but his fearlessness in pressure cooker moments is something that is invaluable to this England side. TC isn’t invincible and this is a big series for him to really make that number 8 slot his own. The younger Curran (Sam) is turning out to be quite the T20 player. A solid slogger down the order and canny enough with the ball to operate in all phases of the game Curran is someone who could prove pivotal in this series and for any T20 success England are going to have in the future. Of course as with his brother Sam is still learning and developing as a cricketer and as I said before this series could be crucial for him to stake a claim for that number 7 spot.
Well now we come onto Reece Topley. Whilst the raw pace of Mark Wood did attract me, Wood has openly said before that he does not enjoy bowling in the powerplay or with the new ball (need I remind you of how this went in South Africa) and the opening period of the game is where England will struggle most. Reece Topley was superb in the blast last year and was dominant in both the powerplay and the death and played a key part in Surrey making it all the way to the final. Topley is a superb T20 bowler and one who England clearly respect and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him feature in this series.
So there we have it my T20i side for the first game! As for series predictions my bubbling optimism cannot be contained and I feel England will win 5-0 with Jos Buttler topping the run scoring charts and Adil Rashid working his magic over the Indian top order. Do you agree with my selection? Let me know either by commenting below or over on my twitter @therunoutblog1.