Afghanistan v England, World T20, Group 1, Delhi March 22, 2016

England mull over Dawson debut

Liam Dawson, the Hampshire slow left-armer, could make his international debut against Afghanistan on Wednesday after Eoin Morgan admitted England were considering the option of three spinners in a vital Group 1 clash in Delhi

England would take a significant stride towards the World T20 semi-finals if they avoid an upset on Wednesday. Their frontline spin pairing, Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid, have demonstrated their value in the tournament so far, and Morgan said that any decision over the make-up of the team would be deferred until the management had had a good final look at the wicket.

"I expected a dryer pitch," Morgan admitted. "There's still a lot of grass on it but I don't know what it's going to do. We'll have to leave it as late as possible to select the side, and see what conditions are going to be like. If it's another hot day like today, [the groundsman] might leave grass on it rather than take it off.

"Since we've arrive here we've had one net session in the nets and they have turned a considerable amount, but I don't think it will turn as much. We can be as open minded as we can, we can talk about it and we can use other players and our backroom staff as a sounding board."

If Dawson did play, it would be quite a turnaround for a player who spent part of last season loaned by Hampshire to Essex to rediscover his form. He achieved that so markedly that he won a call up to the England Lions in the UAE where he impressed the coach, Andy Flower, not just for his spin bowling but his ability to hit a long ball.

Dawson was nevertheless a surprise selection for England's 15-man squad, after beating Stephen Parry to the third spinner's role on account of his greater allround versatility. Morgan expressed absolute faith in his ability to front up on an important occasion, and stressed that Joe Root, who bowled briefly in the victory over South Africa, was not being considered as a front-line option.

"Rooty can be a viable option for a third spinner, but Liam Dawson adds a lot more with the ball than Joe would, and he would come into consideration if the grass comes off the pitch," Morgan said.

"Is he ready? Yeah, absolutely. He's trained really hard since he's come into the side and has been great around the group. He's really upbeat and, like everybody, he's really keen to get involved."

England's recent record against Associate nations at the World T20 leaves plenty to be desired, with defeats to the Netherlands in 2009 and 2014 staining their overall record. But Morgan said that England would be going into the Afghanistan game with their eyes wide open, and with their thoughts trained solely on victory.

"They're a dangerous side," he said. "They have played a really exciting brand of cricket. Ten years ago we might not have known much about them, but now that is the nature of modern sport. We know a lot about them and that is quite comforting - the fact that there's no stone that's left unturned.

"We watched the early stages of the tournament and they played some really good cricket. We watched both games, against Sri Lanka and South Africa in different circumstances, and it's been nice for us to see what they're about as a side."

Afghanistan's reputation for maverick tendencies is best expressed in the wild batting of Mohammad Shahzad, whose 44 from 19 balls was the highlight of their run-chase against South Africa. But Morgan said that they would be wary of all of their opponents, and not merely the man at the top of the order who has captured the recent headlines.

"I think he is a good batsman but I think it would be rude of me to single out any one of their players," he said. "I think as a side they can be quite strong and destructive.

"If we target one player in particular, it can give an opportunity to another player to come out and have their own day, so it is important we treat each player as we do Shahzad.

"I wouldn't say it is nervy to have a bit of unpredictability there, but I would say in any T20 game up against any team then unpredictability can be a strong point. We have lacked consistency as a T20 side in recent times and there is an element of that to our game."

With Sri Lanka looming as England's final contest of a potentially tight group, the prospect of net run rate could yet come into play as a deciding factor in which team goes through to the knock-outs. But Morgan dismissed any such thoughts from his mind, insisting that victory was England's sole focus, no matter how fast or slow their route.

"Our priority is on winning. Tomorrow is a big game and we are certainly not taking Afghanistan for granted, so first and foremost we need to go into that game with the right mindset," he said.

"I think focusing on anything else at the moment, given that there is two group games left, would be a little bit naïve, actually stupid, so tomorrow is very important and getting a win under our belt is key."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets @miller_cricket

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Yasassri on March 23, 2016, 8:27 GMT

    He is a batman, who can bowl. (first class cric. stats)

  • Paulo on March 23, 2016, 7:38 GMT

    As a Hampshire fan, I was pleasantly surprised by the selection of Dawson, but certainly see the logic behind it. He's a very useful cricketer, who has been an important part of a side making 6 consecutive finals days. Useful with the ball, bat and in the field. Certainly knows how to hold his nerve and has bowled in all parts of the game, particularly opening.

    Personally I'd drop Topley for Dawson or Plunkett, depending on conditions. If Hales is unfit then I'd move Willey up to open and bring them both in.

    Afghanistan will certainly provide a tough test. They should have the spinners to hurt England, while England's obvious have a poor recent record vs associates. Could be an exciting game.

  • Martin on March 22, 2016, 23:01 GMT

    It really should be Dawson and Plunkett for Topley and Jordan to have all bases covered - 3 spin, 3 seam, one of them quick enough to take the pitch out of the equation. And an incredibly long batting line-up. I reckon we'll work this out by the end of the group stages - let's hope it's not too late!

  • Danish on March 22, 2016, 20:28 GMT

    I just feel that if they do want to try him out, they won't get a better match to do it. If they do feel uneasy in dropping out on a pacer, then they should probably drop one of Rashid or Moeen, just for this game. And one of Topley or Jordan should really be taken out

  •   Andrew Ward on March 22, 2016, 20:23 GMT

    @TheLuckyCountry: Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid were born in England. I'm not sure why you would suggest they weren't English...

  • Bruce on March 22, 2016, 16:59 GMT

    Dawson is another Pommy cricketer who know nothing very well. Avergae bat and average bowler. He'll fit right into your average team. It makes a change to have an Englishman in the side though. With Stokes, Morgan, Ali, Jordan and Rashid it is like the Commonwealth XI. What a joke.

  • Simon on March 22, 2016, 15:34 GMT

    Yardy, Collingwood anyone? Ravi Bopara can chuck down a few dibbly dobblers that are potentially hard to get away.

  • Simon on March 22, 2016, 15:06 GMT

    Glad this has been suggested. As I think there are two things we need to do to be in with a shout to win the World cup. 1) Ditch a seamer for a spinner and 2) Attack the opposition spin bowling. My view is this, we bat so deep its scary, our 8 and 9 bat high in T20s for their counties, Plus our 6 has test 200 (pretty quick one). Why not insert two of Willey/Ali/Stokes at 3 and 4, with the sole purpose of carrying on the assault against the spinners once the top two have fallen. Willey rarely sees a delivery. So why not attack and spend his and another wicket in our usual spin slow donw. We then have Root/Morgan/Buttler/Stokes/Jordan/Rashid to see us home come all eventualities. Which is the waggiest. As for the extra spinner, Dawson is picked, runs is king, so give him a go.

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