England v New Zealand, World T20, Group 1, Chittagong

England hope wet balls avoid slips

Alan Gardner in Chittagong

March 21, 2014

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Stuart Broad bowls with his knee bandaged, Chittagong, March 21, 2014
Stuart Broad remains confident his knee will survive the World T20 © Getty Images
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Whenever England head to this part of the world, someone is sure to be whistling the tune to their subcontinental homesick blues. A sense memory of dusty wickets, searing heat and the swarming menace of spin gives rise to the instinctive conclusion that they will struggle. An unconvincing display on slow, turning pitches in the Caribbean in the weeks prior to the World T20 has reinforced that view but England were preoccupied with another local phenomenon ahead of their game against New Zealand.

Rather than a dry, crumbly strip, there is expected to be a little more pace and bounce in the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury surface. The problem of dew in the evening making it hard for the bowlers to grip will likely be a factor on Saturday, with the match scheduled for 7.30pm local time. Bangladesh's Al-Amin Hossain noted the problem it presented in their game against Nepal in Chittagong on Tuesday and England have come up with a rough-and-ready way to prepare for the worst.

While the batsmen have been training with skinny "half-bats" to hone the ability to middle their shots, a bucket of water is all that will be required to implement the latest brainwave - allowing England to practice throwing and bowling with a wet ball during Friday's training session. The fixture against New Zealand, an in-form team with several dangerous hitters, could also be a slippery encounter but England have been sure to take dew care and attention.

"It looks quite obvious dew is going to play a part," England's captain, Stuart Broad, said. "We're practising today with wet balls, getting the spinners bowling with wet balls, fielding with wet balls. It's not something you do very often - I can't think I've ever done it."

Recalling England's World Cup defeat against Bangladesh on the same ground in 2011, after which Graeme Swann was fined for using insulting language, Broad said that he had been in touch with Swann to ask about difficulties with gripping the ball. "It's something we have to take into consideration because if you go in with three spinners and they can't bowl you've stuffed yourself a bit," he said.

Broad downplays surgery fears

  • Stuart Broad is expecting to be fit for the duration of England's World T20 campaign despite his ongoing knee problem. He said that surgery on the problem, which has built up due to wear and tear on the joint, was not currently required and remained confident of being available for England's commitments against Sri Lanka and India during the summer.
  • "The knee has come up pretty well from the India game," he said. "It was quite a new position for me as a player to have my first bowl and fitness test during a game, but with it being a warm-up game and India playing 15 players it was an opportunity that was presented to us.

  • "It actually gave me a lot of confidence having had 12 balls in the middle. We know how different it is bowling in nets. I'm pretty confident, no, very confident of playing a part tomorrow and in the rest of the tournament. I can see the last 10 days as a positive. It has been a long winter for me personally with amount of overs I've bowled and those 10 days have just freshened me up so I can really come firing into this World Cup.

  • "I will need a rehab period on the knee. I don't think it will be surgery in April but it's about a six-week period to try and strengthen the muscles around the knee. I'm pretty sure that will start the day or two after we get home and I'll be hopeful of playing a full part in the summer. We've got a bit of time after the summer if it's still giving me some grief."

Broad, who was "very confident" of playing in the first game and throughout the tournament after a period resting his troublesome knee, was due to bowl two spells during England's afternoon net session, when the fast bowlers would also attempt to master their cutters and slower deliveries - step forward Jade Dernbach - with a wet ball. Like his New Zealand counterpart, Brendon McCullum, Broad was encouraged by what he had seen during the qualifying round of the pitch, which has been kept fresh by passing storms over the last few days.

"The wicket has gone through a lot better than I thought it would as a quick bowler, so the bouncer may well be a really good ball to bowl," he said. "We've picked up some good information from the ground but we're still not quite sure how much effect the dew will take so we'll have to think on our feet tomorrow night."

Sri Lanka, who play South Africa in the afternoon fixture, are favourites to win Group 1 because of their comfort with the local conditions - they have spent the best part of two months here on tour and playing in the Asia Cup - and the legerdemain practised by Ajantha Mendis, Sachithra Senanayake and Rangana Herath. However, if the ball skids on under lights rather than turns, hunter may become hunted, with Broad suggesting the batsman could look to target the spinners.

Broad said England's habit of starting badly overseas had been discussed - in Australia over the winter, their beginning, middle and end were all pretty bad - and was keen that each member of the XI selected knew their brief in order to adapt quickly, something England failed to do at the previous World T20 in Sri Lanka. Resting his knee due to the effects of patellar tendonitis also allowed Broad a different perspective on England's indifferent recent form.

"You do see things differently when you watch from the stands," he said. "You see how things work, how players like to operate with different fields. It has been good for me to have the three games sat watching and learning, to get really clear on the roles I'd like guys to play."

Aside from a poor run, including heavy T20 series defeats against Australia and West Indies, the lack of someone in the top order to provide muscle comparable to the likes of Aaron Finch, Chris Gayle or even McCullum has been another reason for some to discount England. Having watched Virat Kohli's more subtle dissection of the bowling at first hand during England's second warm-up match against India - Kohli scored 74 off 48 balls with only eight fours - Broad suggested brawn was not the only guarantor of success.

"Twenty20 cricket isn't all about power, it's about skilful placement of the ball and we've got players who can do that," he said. "You'd say Eoin Morgan is up there as one of the best in the world at that, okay he's not got a huge amount of runs in the past two weeks but the tournament is ahead of us and World Cups are made for big players, who like to perform on the biggest stage. Morgs is one of them and we've got some players who can thrive on that."

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by SayakBhattacharyya on (March 21, 2014, 18:56 GMT)

What about Lumb? Isn't he one of the best among current T-20 openers?

Posted by   on (March 21, 2014, 18:49 GMT)

@Alan Yeah, mcbren is a bit low on strike rate but Finch is just 10-12 matches old (no disrespect to any of them) and if I add both Gayle and him they still have played less matches. So maybe that affects it a bit but overall I feel Mccullum's done enough to be labelled as "even". (lol) Hoping for a cracker tommorow.

Posted by AlanGardner on (March 21, 2014, 17:10 GMT)

Fair point, Shane. I was thinking in terms of strike rate but the "even" probably doesn't need to be there. Certainly wasn't supposed to be a dig.

Posted by   on (March 21, 2014, 16:36 GMT)

Aaron Finch, Chris Gayle or "even" Brendon Mccullum? What? You are using even for the highest run scorer in international t20's, most sixes, most fours, most centuries etc. Well played Sir, well played indeed.

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