Paul Collingwood has admitted it is a challenge to try and mould a Twenty20 side ahead of the next global tournament in the Caribbean with so few matches played at international level. The World Twenty20 will take place in April and May 2010, but although that is eight months away England have precious few games to hone their skills and put together a unit.
After the second of two matches against Australia at Old Trafford on Tuesday, their next Twenty20s aren't until the beginning of their South Africa tour in November. No more are currently confirmed before heading to West Indies, although the schedule for the Bangladesh tour in February has yet to be confirmed. Some of England's players may be able to warm up at the IPL, which has been brought forward to March and April, but that doesn't help Collingwood build team plans in the shortest format.
"We've only got four or five games before the Twenty20 World Cup so it's a tough one to keep chopping and changing," Collingwood said. "We don't play enough cricket to actually get something cemented down and in place. Hopefully we will have the attitude that players will get a good go in certain positions. But I thought the side [against Australia] looked very balanced on paper, I'm not saying that will be the side that takes us into the World Cup but it does look very balanced."
There is also uncertainty over Collingwood's position as captain. Currently he is being appointed on a series-by-series basis with Andrew Strauss having decided he isn't suited to Twenty20. Collingwood insists he is happy in his position and is planning as though he will lead the side in West Indies.
"I'm pretty clear on my role. I was captain for the World Twenty20 and I've been selected as captain for the two Twenty20s against Australia," he said. "So until I'm told otherwise, I want to lead England into the next Twenty20 World Cup. I'm happy with that arrangement - and unless someone tells me otherwise, I look forward to my job captaining the side."
England have been guilty of making numerous changes to their Twenty20 team, including 13 opening partnerships in 21 matches with the latest being Joe Denly and Ravi Bopara at Old Trafford. For the World Twenty20 in England this summer Luke Wright opened and started well before fading later in the event but now finds himself at No. 7. Collingwood feels that Wright's strong hitting ability will be better suited down the order, where England were severely lacking in the previous tournament and struggled to find the boundary in the closing overs.
"We came out of the World Twenty20 and looked at areas we could strengthen and one was the middle order," he said. "We are trying to have some bigger hitters at the back end of the innings so dropping Wrighty down we think we have that. Obviously with Denly's and [Jonathan] Trott's records in domestic Twenty20 it doesn't get much better than what they are doing."
It was far from an ideal start for England's latest pair, however, as they were both dismissed in the first seven balls of the innings before rain ended the contest. With Australia possessing the pace attack of Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson and Dirk Nannes, Collingwood is aware that the top order will have to be at their best to repel them.
"That's something we're going to have to overcome, the pace they have in their side," he said. "They have three 90mph bowlers and that's something we are going to have to deal with, but I think we have the batsman to overcome that."
David Warner, Australia's opening batsman, has warned that it won't get any easier for England in the second Twenty20 encounter and throughout the remainder of the season. "We'll be targeting them from short of a length as we saw yesterday [on Sunday]," he said. "Binga [Lee] and Mitch are bowling quick and England can expect more of that."