World Twenty20 2012 September 20, 2012

England battling against the odds

Rarely can the defending champions in any competition have come into a tournament with so little expected of them


Rarely can the defending champions in any competition have come into a tournament with so little expected of them. Despite winning the last World T20 in the Caribbean in 2010, winning the majority of their T20 games since and a position at the top of both of the rankings in both limited-overs formats, few expect England to retain the trophy.

The reasons for that are simple: England have an inglorious record in Asian conditions and several of the architects of that 2010 success have gone. Kevin Pietersen, the Man of the Tournament in the Caribbean, will be in the commentary box while Ryan Sidebottom, the left-arm seamer whose contribution was seen as so vital, and Michael Yardy, who conceded runs at a rate of just 6.80 an over, have gone. So, too, has Paul Collingwood, the only England captain to have led an England team to success in a global event. While Danny Briggs has replaced Yardy, no left-arm seamer was deemed ready to replace Sidebottom and Stuart Broad remains an inexperienced captain.

England's record in Asian conditions is not quite so black and white as some might have you believe. While they were thrashed in the Tests in the UAE earlier this year, it is worth remembering that they bounced back to take both the ODI and T20 series. Similarly, while England were also thrashed in the ODI series in India less than a year ago and endured forgettable ODI World Cups played in Asian conditions - in 1996 and 2011, when they lost to Ireland and Bangladesh - it is worth remembering that in that same tournament they also defeated South Africa and West Indies and tied with the eventual winners, India.

This England squad is not hugely experienced. Danny Briggs has bowled just 12 balls in international T20 cricket, while Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow are talented but raw. But it is also worth remembering that they went into the 2010 event with an unproven team - both opening batsmen made their debuts in the first game - and a relatively inexperienced captain. Just as on that occasion they required much to go their way, so they will this time. The difference is that this time they are without their most likely match-winner.

Key Player

Eoin Morgan. In the absence of Pietersen, Morgan is the only proven match-winning batsman in the England side. Blessed with the strength to clear the ropes and the ability to manoeuvre the ball into gaps with a range of idiosyncratic but highly skilful strokes Morgan can, when the mood is with him, devastate an attack. His struggles in the UAE - he was dropped from the England Test team after a gruesome series against Pakistan - and then spent the IPL season on the bench to do not bode especially well, but he bounced back with brilliant performances against Australia and South Africa. His T20 figures are actually unexceptional - he has passed 50 only three times in 25 innings and he has a strike-rate of 132.90 - but he has the experience, the skill and the big-match temperament to be a match-winner and, without Pietersen, England are heavily reliant upon him.7

Surprise package

Danny Briggs. Dropped from Hampshire's County Championship side due to a lack of incision - he claimed just five Championship wickets in 2012 at an average of 49.80 - he has nevertheless emerged as an excellent limited-overs bowler who played a key role in his county winnings both limited-overs competitions. Aged only 21 and having bowled only 12 balls in T20Is, he will be largely unknown to most opponents and, while he is not a huge turner of the ball, he has excellent control, surprising pace and decent variation. If he has a good tournament, it will go some way to his team doing the same.


There are a few. The absence of Pietersen is clearly a blow and there is an obvious concern over England's ability to combat spin bowling on the low, slow pitches that are anticipated. There are long-term worries about the elbow problems of Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann, too. But it is Ravi Bopara's lack of form and confidence with the bat that threatens to disturb the balance of the side. Bopara's well-controlled and skilful medium-pace has been particularly productive in recent weeks and built in a buffer zone for England should one of their main bowlers endure a poor day. But such is his lack of form with the bat that he has been rendered something close to a specialist bowler in recent weeks. Without his ability to clear the ropes, England look over reliant on Morgan and Buttler with the bat and uncomfortably reliant for back-up bowling on Luke Wright, who bowled just one over in the 2010 event.

World T20 history

Despite winning the World T20 in 2010, England have arguably suffered more embarrassment in this format than any Full Member. No team has lost more games - eight - than England in World T20s (though New Zealand and Bangladesh have also lost eight) and, in 2007 and 2009, they failed to progress beyond the last eight. In 2007, England's only victory came against Zimbabwe and they lost all three of their Super Eight games culminating in Yuvraj Singh's thrashing of Broad for 36 in an over in Durban. They fared little better in 2009 when they were beaten by Netherlands at Lord's, though England did defeat eventual winners Pakistan and India before they were eliminated. In 2010 they emerged from the group stages despite failing to win a match - they were beaten by West Indies and probably saved by the rain against Ireland - but then won their next five games to secure the trophy.

Recent form

England have won 15 of their last 20 completed T20 games and are currently rated No.1 in the official ICC T20 rankings. They have not lost a series of more than one game since the World T20 of 2009 and, of the six T20s they have played this year, England have won four. They have only played one T20 in Asia (against India in Kolkata), which they won, while in vaguely similar conditions - in the UAE - they won two of their three T20s against Pakistan.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Girish on September 21, 2012, 17:00 GMT

    I disagree with the article. The only weak link in England's side is Broad. His batting is not suitable for T20 and his bowling has been hit for 6 sixes in an over. His pace has also come down recently. He is a true liability in the side.

  • Jem on September 21, 2012, 9:47 GMT

    KP is a massive loss. Morgan can be equally as destructive but is not an opener as KP became, and as such has only a limited number of overs in which to fire. I like Hales but don't rate Kieswetter's ability against quality bowling. Much as I like Luke Wright, he comes into the same category - both are flat track bullies against the minnows but tend either to swish and miss or block out too many dot balls when faced with the likes of Steyn, Morkel etc. The same is true of all England's batsmen against quality spin, with the possible exception of Morgan - provided he has recovered from his mauling in the UAE. The bowlers should be fine whichever combination they use. My biggest concern is Broad himself who can too easily go for big runs - as captain he'll want to lead from the front by always bowling his 4 overs even when he's getting spanked. I'd prefer to see him have more faith in Wright/Bopara's bowling for all four overs if necessary - even at the death.

  • Simon on September 21, 2012, 9:06 GMT

    Sure Luke Wright bowled one over in the last T20 world cup, but it was in the final, went for 5 and took a wicket. As long as you don't expect more than a couple of overs from him his bowling is fine.

    The top order is potentially explosive with Hales, Kieswetter and Wright being fine strikers of the ball. My worry is the lack of a 'grafter' in the Kallis or Amla mould to anchor an innings if teh top order fails. Morgan can do this to an extent but I've always considered him to be more of a finisher.

  • Sriram on September 21, 2012, 8:56 GMT

    England beat India both home and away in thier most recent head to head T20s.. India has never been the same side sine 2007 T20 they are not the favourites IMHO. I support India..but they are not favourites unless thier batsmen stay in super duper form.. England will take thier chances vs India once they see off Afghan and most likely the Bairstows and Butlers, Kieswetters and Finns will cause severe headache even on low, slow SL pitches. I wish im proved wrong...For England the fact they have to prove they are a bloody good side despite KP migh consume them!! KP or no KP, he'll still be the reason for win and loss.

  • John on September 21, 2012, 8:54 GMT

    An interesting article here. I'd say Ravi's exclusion is both a hindrance and a blessing. We'll sure miss his overs esp if one or 2 are going for runs but I feel he is a liability with the bat and dries up the runs and slows our run rate. KP is obviously a huge loss in this format - I'd say more than in tests - so we have to hope that our bowlers can keep it all steady and if they don't that Morgan and one of our youngsters can do the business with the bat. For me I don't see why Briggs is seen as a surprise package. In this format he's been doing it for a few years for Hants. If Cork and Dimitri hand him the ball 1st up that shows to me how much faith they have in him

  • John on September 21, 2012, 8:54 GMT

    @Juiceoftheapple on (September 20 2012, 22:33 PM GMT) No worries. I'm a Somerset fan too remember and on his day he can do it. I just feel that he is an all or nothing guy with the bat and I wish his mindset would be (for the 1st few overs) to make it paramount to get a single off every ball and if a suitable ball comes along or once he's settled to start playing the big shots. I just feel that at times he gets bogged down and then plays uncontrolled haymakers in an effort to bring his SR back up.

  • Brett on September 21, 2012, 2:04 GMT

    I think the batting is England's major issue as they have the bowling to compete with Finn, Swann and now Dernbach who looks useful albeit a little inconsistent. For England to move through past Super 8 they will need good starts from Kieswetter (who is probably not quite up to scratch as an opener - Gilly, Kumar or AB deV he is not) and Hales who is a little bit of an unknown quality although his T20 debut was spectacular. Morgan is their best player and should bat 3 while Bairstow and Buttler could be X factors - however I remain unconvinced re Buttler who has only produced 1 decent effort over a number of matches but perhaps this will provide him the needed confidence. Think their performance today will be a good guide overall as Afghanistan are a decent enough team - a comfortable win will convince me they have a shot.

  • Simon on September 20, 2012, 22:33 GMT

    And another thing, Sideshow bob, Yardy and Kieswetter were Flower's master strokes last tournament. Briggs, Dernbach and the same Kieswetter could also be his masterstroke again (Sorry JG had to get it in there).

  • Simon on September 20, 2012, 22:28 GMT

    England - Dark horses of the compeition (not the Windies who are clearly powerful, experienced and used to asian conditions). Too much emphasis on 'yeah but so and so beat you in 20....' in T20 cricket, it is a lottery where quality is only borne out over time and percentage of wins. England can and will beat anyone, anywhere. Poor English batting against world class spinners is marginally nullified by being limited to 4 overs a game (normally). Variation fast bowling nullifies dead wickets. I just think we are missing one more clear the ropes when batting fast bowler, i.e. Woakes/A.Morkel. Funny how many major nations we beat but are reminded about the 'lottery' losses endlessly. Someone will beat us badly in this tournament, thats the name of the game.

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