Updated: May 26, 2021
Credit for the stats and numbers goes to @JamesMccaghrey please do follow James he’s one of the best out there big love to you
England wants to win a world cup. England really want to win a T20 world cup. Well if I’m being totally honest I just don’t think they can. England are a good side but are they a great T20 side? No. Can they become one in the space of months? Quite simply yes
Before the India vs England T20i series England were almost certain of their best T20i team but now the doors have been blown wide open. Of course England fans can be totally reactionary but this time I feel it isn’t reactionary. More this series confirmed some of the issues and worries England fans have had for a while. As I said in my player ratings this was always bound to happen when you take on the world's best in their own back garden but these issues have been there for a while and with the T20 world cup being hosted in India later this year this series was a real worry for England. But before I begin to discuss this let us cover some of the positives that England can build from.
To begin with England have some of the world's best T20 players in their ranks in Buttler, Morgan, Bairstow, Jofra and Adil Rahsid. In these 5 players England have a strong core of players who they know will deliver over the course of the tournament and also they have one of the most tactically astute captains in the history of the game. England currently possess the best T20 opener in the world, one of the best finishers in the world, the best powerplay bowler in the world and the 2nd best T20 spinner in the world. England have 3 batting positions and 4 overs sorted this is a core from which a world cup winning side can be built and it can be built quick.
Mark Wood is also another huge positive for England and him and Archer are almost undoubtedly the best new ball pair in T20 cricket in the world. A year ago England had no clue where powerplay wickets were coming from now they have two of the most reliable sources in world cricket.
Another huge positive for England is their tactical flexibility. T20 cricket is a game made on matchups and in England's vast pool of talent they have the players to exploit certain matchups. Shreyas Iyer is a good example, he struggles against high pace bowling so England targeted him with Mark Wood and it worked. England have a wide range of tricks up their sleeve and they are showing more and more they are able to exploit these to good effect. The flexibility in the batting unit is also something that is underrated with everyone able to bat in whatever position throughout the innings with any of them able to, again, exploit matchups due to a good mix of both left and right hand batsman. Whilst this is a strength of England's them not using it is something that I personally am finding increasingly irritating and annoying. In the recent series England's left handers were constantly unable to hit Shardul Thakur but still England insisted on having Ben Stokes there at the death when actually an arguably more viable tactic would’ve been to send in Jofra Archer who could’ve exploited Thakurs weakness against right handers. This inability to be flexible isn’t an England issue but rather a world cricket issue yet this is a discussion for another time.
As I said earlier England have the core to build a world cup winning side but of course there are some broader issues which where highlighted during the T20i series. The first of which is, in my opinion, their death overs.
For a long time Chris Jordan has been one of Eoin Morgans main men and Morgan very clearly rates him as one of the best death bowlers in the world and well for England and well he was. But in domestic cricket it’s a very different story. When Kings Xi Punjab faced Delhi Capitals in the last edition of the IPL Chris Jordan was taken apart by Marcus Stoinis and CricViz released the graph shown below (more on the other name mentioned later). In essence Chris Jordan is an average T20 death bowler but he has been outperforming this level for England for a long time but this just simply isn’t sustainable. Jordan regressing to the mean is something that was present during the recent series with his numbers being nowhere near the standard you would expect for someone who is essentially brought in for that specific role. Jordan averaged 49 with the bowl and was going at 10 runs an over, overall. Whilst at the death Jordan was going at 13 runs an over. Sooner rather than later Morgan have to look at a players number rather than their reputation or past performances.
Çredit to @CricViz on Twitter
For me England's death bowling is a real issue and this was shown throughout the T20i series. England consistently became stuck at the death as India bowled a wide range of slower balls and cutters which the England bowlers just could not match. If England are serious about winning a world cup they need to sort out this phase of the game and they need to do it quickly. England's death bowlers were exposed this series especially Mark Wood who just isn’t consistent enough to be a death bowler for me and his role as a middle overs ‘enforcer’ or the ‘spliceman’ ,as he is becoming more commonly known as, is far more beneficial for England as a whole. So who can England turn to fo fix this issue? Well in their ranks England already have the aforementioned Jofra Archer who has been superb in recent times and across the 2019 and 2020 editions of the IPL Jofra had an economy of 10.4 rpo in the death overs. This was the best by any England seamer during the time period.
Then 2nd on the list was Englands very own Sam Curran who had an economy of 11 rpo but also picked up 16 wickets at an average of 15. These are truly remarkable stats and it’s not surprising given Curran is very skilled at variations and slower balls both of which are not only in vogue as more batsmen learn how to take apart yorkers but both of which are of supreme value in India. Yet Sam only bowled 1 death over in the entire T20 series. England already have 2 superb death bowlers who can operate in all phases of the game they just need to use one of them even more.
Well if England want to use Jordan as a death overs specialist I do feel he needs replacing by the man who comes up trumps for English death overs bowlers, Tymal Mills. Below is another CricViz graph that not only underpins the prowess and brilliance of Mills at the death but also makes it very clear the weakness of Jordan. Since 2018 in the final 4 overs of a T20 innings Chris Jordan has been performing demonstrably worse than the average bowler. As i’ve already said England came unstuck at the death as their usual plans of yorker after yorker just simply did not work. Mills though offers something different with him being a mote defensive death bowler and being a smart one to using a wide variety of cutters and slower balls. Given Englands batting depth they can almost certainly afford for a death overs specialist and Mills is currently the best there is. England have a clear issue at the death but the solution is infuriatingly simple. The numbers being put out by Englands front line death bowler (or one of them at least) are truly awful and what's worse is the whole rotary of options they have at their disposal is insane but they just won't use them.
Credit to @CricViz on Twitter
Aside from the death overs England have a clear issue in their middle order and it’s another example of England (and Morgan) valuing reputation and name above cold hard stats. Ben Stokes is one of the best cricketers of his generation and is the mere definition of a big game player… In one day and test cricket. In T20 cricket Ben Stokes is not that. The issue with Stokes is that Ideally he would bat in the top 3 for England and anywhere outside of that he is fairly ineffective. From your number 5 or 6 you want him to score and score quickly and for England Ben Stokes has not done that. From 21 Innings at either 5 or 6 (11 and 10 respectively) he has a SR of 130. For England to win a world cup this quite simply needs to be higher you need your number 5 or 6 striking at 150+ to come in and propel you from those par scores to the huge ones. Take Hardik Pandya who in my opinion is one of the great T20 finishers in the modern era, he was crucial to Mumbai Indians success last season on multiple occasions taking them from a good score to a truly outstanding one. Ben Stokes is not this player. The reputation of Ben Stokes counts for a lot but it’s just not enough. Of course Stokes offers great balance to the side but his bowling is really not good enough to be relied on for 4 overs. In the most recent T20i series Stokes went at 8.8 an over the 3rd worst of Englands bowlers. One possible option is combining Stokes and Moeen Ali to make up a 5th bowler themselves both taking 2 overs or maybe a 3/1 split depending on the surface and using them for specific matchups. This is an idea that I am personally hugely fond of as they do counteract each other's perceived weaknesses but they both facilitate one another quite well. Whilst Stokes struggles to get off the mark in T20 cricket Moeen doesn’t, in fact of T20 players with a minimum of 500 balls faced Moeen has the 4th highest strike rate since the 2016 world cup with a staggering 159. Now when you change these metrics to be against spin and a minimum of 350 balls faced Moeen comes out trumps with a strike rate of 172. Moeen is one of England's best T20 batsmen and the sheer fact he isn’t in this side is to me completely egregious. Moeen can combine with Stokes to create a 5th bowler or he can even play as a specialist batsmen who bowls if the matchup suits him. With a world cup coming up in India you would feel that one of the world's best T20 players of spin would be in the side but instead he hasn’t played for 8 games in a row now. Moeen is a superior T20 player to Ben Stokes but Stokes’ reputation is what appears to be keeping him in the side. Rather nicely this provides me a good segway to my next point which is about Eoin Morgan.
Eoin Morgan has been heralded as the mastermind behind English crickets white ball revolution and rightfully so but recently Morgan has started to annoy me in a certain way. Morgan is a man who has this unshakeable trait of sticking by players for a touch too long. Sometimes it is vindicated, the best example being Adil Rashid. Other times it just doesn’t. Morgan seemingly puts this price upon these unquantifiable metrics of gut and metal. With Morgan he likes a tight knit group of players which is very secluded and rarely mixed and for a newcomer to arrive they have to be the best. A good example of this is Tom Curran. 4 years ago in Perth Tom Curran seemingly arrived on the international stage and ripped the heart out of the Australian batting lineup. Morgan has held onto that moment using it as an almost qualifier for a man who is the statistically worst bowler in the history of the IPL and whose form has gone off of a cliff in recent times. I mean in England's last white ball series against South Africa he had an economy of 11.7 rpo. Sorry but at some point the numbers have to mean more than the man behind them. Morgan is a genius and one of the greatest men in English cricketing history but at some point we have to put behind what he’s done and focus on what he’s doing and in my opinion what he is doing is damaging the side. Sticking by guys like Jordan and Curran is currently hurting England and they aren’t showing the moments of brilliance which Rashid did when Morgan stuck by him instead their performances and their numbers are on a decline and they’re showing their true ability on the international level.
Morgan was very open about his trust in Rashid's ability and it paid off
Now onto the point that will get me the most hate but please before you come at me read and understand what I’m saying. For me I wouldn’t have Dawid Malan in England's best T20i side, or to be more specific I wouldn’t have this iteration of Dawid Malan in England's best T20i side. Before you brandish your pitchforks and begin the never ending stampede of discourse onto my Twitter (@therunoutblog1 for those of you who don’t know) I ask again please hear me out. This is not something against Malan it is instead against the role of anchor in a T20 side or the role of a specialist anchor. A specialist anchor in any T20 side is, in my opinion, not always the best option but for England? It’s useless. England does not need a player who needs 10-15 balls to get going, it's just not worth it. What Malan offers of going slow then going big England has plenty of... But just, minus the slow part. If we reflect upon the most recent T20i series I do not believe it to be wrong to say that Malan was overall disappointing. Heading into a series as the number 1 ranked T20i batsmen you would expect more from him than an average of 37 and a measly sr of 120. Malan’s style of batting is in my view indicative of an archaic ideology of T20 batting (how strange does it feel to say that). Specialist anchors aren’t something England need anymore as they have players who can perform as an anchor but at the same time not be 20 off 20 in after the powerplay which in India is the most important phase of the game as the wicket deteriorates throughout the innings. Instead England could afford to have a top 4 of Buttler, Hales, Roy, Bairstow. All 4 of these players can score quick and fast from the output but in Buttler and Bairstow you also have two supreme players of spin who can become a sort of makeshift anchor in the middle overs without sacrificing any dominance in the powerplay.
Of course the classic counter argument to everything I have laid out is merely his international stats are just superb. Ok but when compared to his actual T20 stats the difference is shocking with his domestic SR standing at 128. Now whilst of course there are certain factors that can lead to an increase in statistical output when put into international level: better wickets, better net bowlers, confidence from being selected, the jump in performance output is so stark and so huge that to me it just simply is a ridiculously unsustainable level of performance output. I’m going to say this once and again I implore you to please read my full statement. I wouldn’t have this current version of Dawid Malan in my T20i side. Not only do I believe him to be a limited player in terms of his hitting arch (the Indians bowled him off stump half volleys allowing him to cover drive which is one of the shots his career is built on), but I do not like the mould of T20 player he is at the moment. Say Malan goes away to the IPL and the hundred and he begins to consistently strike at 130-140 in the power play then I would welcome him back with open arms. But for now I do firmly believe in the long terms that Malan will be a hindrance not a benefit to England and their bid to win a world cup.
England wants to become the first nation to hold both the T20 world cup and the 50 over world cup at the same time. Well as far as I can tell this won’t happen anytime soon. England are stuck in the past of T20 cricket subscribing to specialist roles and not utilising their immense tactical flexibility and I for one find it infuriating. Over the next decade we will see a new dawn of 20/20 cricket and England need to catch up because the question of where to now is slowly creeping up on them like a grey cloud on a sunny day. If England isn't careful they will be left behind.