The sudden abundance of T20Is
It’s less than twelve months until the T20 World Cup starts. The sudden abundance of T20Is is empirical evidence to the fact. With the fifty-over version in the trophy cupboard at Lord’s, England will be looking to double up next year. Eoin Morgan’s ‘will I or won’t I’ charade is over, and he’s continuing at the helm to spearhead the challenge for twenty over glory. New coach Chris Silverwood has big shoes to fill after Trevor Bayliss departed as a 50-over winning England coach. With the nucleus of the England T20I squad having tasted glory in July, who would bet against them?
England fans will remember the successful campaign in 2010 when England won their first major white-ball tournament. Held in the West Indies, England lost to the hosts in the first game. That loss to the West Indies seemed harsh when considering that England scored 191/5 before a D/L score of 60, after rain, made the run chase far easier. Despite a no-result against Ireland, England qualified for the Super 8s and didn’t look back. Convincing wins against Pakistan, South Africa and New Zealand led to a semi-final against Sri Lanka which was won in the same fashion. The old enemy, Australia, awaited in the final but another seven-wicket win saw England take the spoils. From that game at Kensington Oval, England has one player still playing... Eoin Morgan.
The tour to New Zealand is well underway with innumerable T20Is being played. England has decided to give Root, Stokes, Buttler and Archer some time off. In their place, players on the periphery have been brought into the squad to audition for “the big dance” (why do the ICC feel the need to use such cliched and annoying marketing gimmicks?) next year. Tom Banton (20-years-old), Pat Brown (21), Sam Curran (21), Lewis Gregory (27), Saqib Mahmood (22) and Matt Parkinson (22) are all getting the opportunity to play in the series. All have demonstrated why they are on Ed Smith’s list.
I went to Christchurch to see the first T20I at Hagley Oval. The game had the added spice, from the media, of being the first Blackcaps vs England game since the Cricket World Cup final. This was not the case on many levels: personnel, format and venue being three reasons as to why the hype was meaningless. I enjoyed taking in a game on the grassy banks at Christchurch. The match was well supported, the weather was gorgeous, and the picturesque venue created a spectacle. England was far too good with both bat and ball on the day. That hasn’t been the case through the series, at the time of writing, but England’s rotation policy doesn’t engender consistency. Also, a lack of experience in some quarters has not helped, but that’s the point of the selection policy for New Zealand.
The BBL is not too far away now, and plenty of English players are getting on the rosters of teams. It does beg the question whether this is not just for financial gain but as a way of putting their wares on show. Liam Livingstone is the latest to sign up by finding a home in Perth for the Aussie summer. Pat Brown, consolidating his international appearances, has signed for the Melbourne Stars. Also, Phil Salt (Adelaide), Tom Banton (Brisbane), Harry Gurney (Melbourne Renegades), Tom Curran and James Vince (both Sydney Sixers) and Alex Hales (Sydney Thunder) will feature in BBL09.
The subject of Alex Hales is a thorny one. Clearly talented, Hales has blotted his copybook with Morgan, and I’ve commented on that in a previous blog. However, his T20I record can’t, or at least shouldn’t, be overlooked. He holds England’s highest T20I score; he’s second only to Morgan in runs scored (1,644) and scores more and quicker than the captain. Will Morgan put his hubris to one side and talk to Hales? I suspect not, and that’s a shame when you consider that Hales and Roy going full flow on Australian grounds next year would be a mouth-watering prospect. There appears to be plenty in the batting reserves for England, and that augurs well, but adding Hales to the mix would be my suggestion.
Before the T20 World Cup is upon us, England will play several T20I series. South Africa, Australia and Pakistan will give Ed Smith time to finalise the squad for October next year. It would be reasonable to suggest that others trying to break into the England setup will need to be exceptional if they are to achieve their goal. We will have to wait and see.