At the end of a long and winding tour of India, split by a return home for the holidays, England will finally step on the field to face their opponents on equal, if not better, footing. Since Trevor Bayliss had taken over as the head coach, “positivity” and “relentless attack” have become the mantra of this English side, and no format allows them to practice what their coach has been preaching better than T20s.
In the most abbreviated format of the game, there is much to be gained from the mentality, especially of the batsmen, to never let up. Virat Kohli had mentioned in an interview that England could only operate at one gear and noted that as their weakness, but that apparent weakness will be a source of strength in T20s.
England is stuffed to the gills with gifted hitters from top to bottom. With Alex Hales out with injury, Sam Billings, who has already shown his abilities in various T20 leagues around the world, will slot in quite easily as the opening partner for Jason Roy. With Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali to follow, Indian bowlers will be hard-pressed to even find a moment to catch their breath, in a game that moves at breakneck pace.
In T20s, the premium is on stocking the line-up with players who could hit boundaries at will. England's top seven have a track record of it and do it in various ways. While Roy and Stokes could biff the ball, Root and Morgan can slice and dice the field with precision and touch. Buttler is quite easily one of the freaks of the modern game, worthy of being equated with AB de Villiers.
With Chrises (Jordan and Woakes), Liam Plunkett and speedster Tymal Mills bringing up the rear, there is no shortage of power even well down the order. England will miss the services of David Willey – at least for the first game of the series – who had shown the knack of taking wickets with the new ball, but his hitting abilities – he opens for Yorkshire in NatWest T20 Blast – won't be missed.
England's bowlers would certainly be buoyed by their efforts to limit India in their chase in Kolkata, and also by the fact that they have routinely taken early wickets exposing the Indian middle order. Though India rebounded through their experienced middle order, T20s do not afford them that time to rebuild an innings.
Even as India are ranked second and England occupy the fifth position on the ICC T20I rankings, the matchup is a lot closer on the field than on paper. England have already demonstrated with their T20 approach in the preceding ODI series by scoring in excess of 300 in every match. Though the final score line was 2-1 in favour of India, the script could just as easily been turned upside down.
England's overall win record in T20Is is barely over 0.500 but their record since they returned from a dispiriting tour to West Indies in 2015 is 10-5, including a return to World T20 final where the brilliance and muscle of Carlos Brathwaite put paid to their hopes of a second global trophy.
In their last 15 T20Is, England average 161 when batting first in 11 matches (winning seven), and successfully chased in three of the four other matches. Chasing a target is usually a better option in limited over games but England have shown to be equally adept at putting a score up first in the last 19 months.
The biggest concern for England in the limited over leg of this Indian tour was their captain Eoin Morgan. Having decided to skip the tour to Bangladesh for personal safety concerns – entirely legitimate, it was a curiosity as to how he will slot back in to the side.
He has more than proven his detractors wrong by scoring a terrific hundred that possessed patience and power in equal measures in the Cuttack ODI, although in vain. And so, England with a more settled side, and a vast surplus of power, under a captain who has regained his hold on the reins, and bowlers capable of taking timely wickets, look to end their long tour of the subcontinent on a very happy note.
Updated Date: Jan 26, 2017 11:06:39 IST