World Twenty20 2014 March 21, 2014

Problems aplenty for spin-shy England


You could sum up England's turbulent preparation for this tournament in a number of ways. Their captain, Stuart Broad, sat out England's two most recent fixtures in order to rest a chronic knee injury and may need injections to get him through the World T20; two of their brightest young talents have been ruled out by broken bones (one of them self-inflicted); they have lost five of their last six T20s (not to mention 16 out of 22 in all formats).

It also may surprise some that their squad includes a player who has not played a T20 match (international or otherwise) since 2011. Ian Bell is a classy player and an adroit top-order batsman in ODIs - not to mention "a world-class bloke", in the words of Ashley Giles - but it seems a bit late in the piece to try and turn him into a kind of English Mahela Jayawardene.

Despite some encouraging signs in the Caribbean, such as the form of Michael Lumb and another promising display from Chris Jordan, England still lie under something of an Ashes cloud. Kevin Pietersen's absence needs both little and reams of explanation - his name brings a flashbulb of recognition followed by a frown of disappointment among Bangladeshis.

Although the retirement of Graeme Swann in Australia ostensibly changes little, as he hadn't played since the World T20 in Sri Lanka, he has still not been adequately replaced: England's most successful spinner in the format since then is Joe Root. Steven Finn, their leading wicket-taker at the last competition, is currently unavailable following his time Down Under.

Another indication of England's slide is their position at No. 8 in the rankings, which is likely to determine their seeding for the next World T20, in India in 2016. Ireland's eviction from the tournament by Netherlands looks to have saved England from the immediate prospect of being overtaken by an Associate but they remain perilously close to dropping out of the elite. A couple of wins would quickly alter the situation but, while morale seems good, confidence cannot be abundant.

Any T20 tournament comes with the caveat that form, however fleeting, outranks all else. Four years ago in the Caribbean, England happened upon a new opening partnership in the first game, stuck with a XI (ten played all seven games) and ran away with the title. However, the Man of the Series then, is in official parlance, no longer under consideration for selection. They are in a group more sympathetic to their strengths, with just the wiles of Sri Lanka's spinners to cope with, but it is probably worth keeping a lid on expectations this time round.

Key player

Without Pietersen - had you heard? - England arrive in Bangladesh having loaded a weight of extra responsibility into Eoin Morgan's trunk. England crave the full range of Morgan's power and innovation but, as with most of their build-up, there lurks a reservation or two. A knee injury limited his contributions in the Caribbean and, despite his obvious value to the side, his recent form has been patchy. An unbeaten 49 in Mumbai more than a year ago was his last match-winning performance and he has not scored an international fifty in the format since the 2012 World T20.

Surprise package

Jordan has made a case for inclusion after bashing 27 off nine balls and taking three wickets in the final Barbados T20, while England have their own mystery spinner in Stephen Parry (mainly because no one knows too much about him outside of Lancashire).

Moeen Ali, however, might be the closest thing England have to an ace up their sleeve. Although he fared none too well in his two T20s against West Indies, he has experience of the conditions from playing in the Bangladesh Premier League (admittedly with modest success for Duronto Rajshahi) and can also bowl useful off spin. If we are talking about his doosra in two weeks' time, England may not have fared too badly.


Most of England's problems revolve around one four-letter word: spin. A propensity to quiver like blancmange when faced with the turning ball, the lack of a slow bowler to strike fear into opposition hearts and a poor record in the subcontinent, particularly in limited-overs cricket, mean few will be hoping for England in their office sweepstake. The injuries to Joe Root and Ben Stokes, among other issues, mean the squad has already been significantly depleted before proceedings get under way.

World T20 history

Winners in 2010 but pretty much a busted flush at every other event. An experimental side stocked with county T20 specialists failed to make an impression at the first tournament and it was a similar story of short-form underachievement in home conditions two years later, as England were pole-axed by Netherlands in the opening game and missed out on the last four. Paul Collingwood captained England to a cathartic success in the Caribbean but two years later, amid more KP-related angst, their title defence never really got going.

Recent form

On a one-match winning streak. Beating West Indies last week ended a run of five defeats, during which various tactical ploys - two spinners, five seamers, numerous No. 3s, Luke Wright wherever there was a space - were tried to little avail. Giles, England's limited-overs coach and leading candidate to succeed Andy Flower, has had to deal with setback after complication after mishap and is probably not looking forward to his job interview in April.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Paulo on March 22, 2014, 15:41 GMT

    It's complete madness. The previous WT20 was such a disaster, and one we went into ranked number 1 and ended up 5. So we now approach the same tournament in very similar conditions with an almost identical squad, and somehow expect to win it. Just without our class fast bowler who has lost all confidence. Parry just looks like another Briggs. But tbf Bopara has done alright recently. Tredwell has also appeared to replace Swann pretty well (even in the slips). And Moeen Ali looks good. Buttler is improving and Jordan has potential. But then again our best bowler (Broad) is injured and our best batsman (Morgan) can't play spin, and as this article states is long overdue a good performance in T20Is. Even his ODI performances have been overstated imo.

    Why on earth are Bell and Woakes in the squad? Both are good red-ball cricketers, but T20? Ashley Giles selecting Warwickshire players without any county stats to deserve a place, just like he did with Rankin.

  • Colin on March 22, 2014, 12:45 GMT

    England really look vulnerable in this tournament. Only chance is if Hales, Morgan or Buttler fire. Bowling looks like it will get torn apart!

  • Dummy4 on March 22, 2014, 11:45 GMT

    A shame that England won't 'drop out of the elite' quite yet. That'd would've been such a telling tribute to their managers' paradoxical methods of building team spirit (lose lose lose again, but harmoniously). Would've made Giles a shoo-in for manager.

  • Jackie on March 22, 2014, 11:40 GMT

    The way to turn Ian Bell into Jayawardene is to get him to play t20 games. Sitting on the sidelines watching is not going to do it. Thinking outside the box is something England is not good at, but calling up Bell when the batting is looking so mediocre could have done the trick. However Giles seems to have lost whatever nerve he had. Bell could have been tried out in a couple of the five games he has watched. It isn't exactly that we have been overblessed. The trouble is we really do need someone like Jayawardene. Bell surprised a lot of pundits when he made a success of opening in ODIs. He should have been given the chance to offer class to the England t20 side. What have we got to lose? Not exactly a front runner. All the others who have been playing since 2011 are the ones who are losing.

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