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Tymal Mills comes full circle in his remarkable England comeback

Quick didn't give up hope of a recall but had "stopped thinking about it" after years out of the side

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Tymal Mills is pumped up after snagging Nicholas Pooran, England vs West Indies, Men's T20 World Cup 2021, Super 12s, Dubai, October 23, 2021

Tymal Mills is pumped up after snagging Nicholas Pooran  •  Getty Images

Tymal Mills announced himself as a fast bowler on the rise in 2016 when he rearranged Chris Gayle's stumps with a 150kph yorker in a T20 Blast match at Hove. Five years later, his dismissal of the same man confirmed his return to the big stage after a long struggle with injuries.
Mills earned an England recall thanks to a series of standout performances in the Blast and the Hundred this summer, and was picked for his first T20 international since 2017 on Saturday night in Dubai. Entrusted with the sixth over, he dismissed Gayle with the final ball of the Powerplay, rushing him with an 140kph short ball and inducing a spliced pull which saw Dawid Malan take a superbly-judged catch backpedalling from the edge of the ring at midwicket.
It was a moment of symmetry for Mills, and reward for his dedication to getting himself in good enough physical condition to play a major role in this tournament. He has suffered badly with injuries since his breakthrough five years ago, spending three months in a back brace last winter following a stress fracture, but was fit enough to play 19 games between the Blast and the Hundred this summer and bowled with good pace on his return.
"A lot of hard work has gone in to get myself into a position to put my hat in the ring," Mills told Sky Sports. "I had a really good summer back home and to get out here, back among the lads, really enjoy training and get selected for the first game, I was really pleased. I didn't give up hope [of an England recall] but I probably stopped thinking about it, to be honest.
"He [Gayle] is one of the biggest names around. Their batting line-up is fierce, isn't it, Polly [Kieron Pollard] and [Andre] Russell coming in at No. 7 and 8. We knew that we had to stay on it. I want to play every game. I don't want to be sitting out. I've been backing up training sessions back home in the summer and since I've been out here I've been recovering well. The schedule isn't too brutal in this competition, so I'm good to go."
"I didn't give up hope [of an England recall] but I probably stopped thinking about it, to be honest."
Tymal Mills
"You can see once the pace cranks up people do strange things," Chris Silverwood, England's coach, said. "Pace does that to people, and to have someone with that ability, and from a left-arm angle as well, in the squad is a real asset to us. He's a great asset to have in our bowling attack."
It was a year ago that Eoin Morgan was asked by Mills over dinner whether his name came up in selection meetings - coincidentally in Dubai, where they were filming for the 'Ultimate Kricket Challenge'. Morgan said that it did, and gave enough encouragement for Mills to hatch a route back into the side for himself.
"I'm delighted for Big T," Morgan said. "He's had an incredibly unfortunate journey throughout his career right from the start up until now. He's as good as I've seen him - both fit and bowling fit - and his fielding has also drastically improved which is a huge contribution. I'm absolutely delighted that not only was he back on the field for us but also contributing in the manner that we've seen in the past in a Sussex shirt."
England's use of Mills and his method were both notable. In what could be a theme throughout the tournament, Mills and England's other seamers, Chris Woakes and Chris Jordan, aimed to hit 'hard' or 'heavy' lengths rather than looking for early swing and exploited West Indies' relative weakness against back-of-a-length bowling. Mills was also used as an enforcer through the middle of the innings, removing Nicholas Pooran with a rare full, pace-on ball which he edged behind - though he expects to be saved until the death for most of the World Cup.
"If this game had gone traditionally - to the full 20 - my overs would have been left to the death," he said. "It was a luxury of taking wickets and Morgs then used me earlier, otherwise, I would have been saved until the death. Our next game is in Abu Dhabi and we play in Sharjah as well so we're going to have to be adaptable, but smashing away, back of a length is going to be key.
"You don't want to be too full and you don't want to be too floaty. We played against New Zealand a couple of days ago and we spoke about: 'if you're going to miss [your length], miss shorter' on these wickets. As long as you're banging it in with some conviction, you want to be missing on the shorter side, we think."
England were without Mark Wood, the one bowler in their squad quicker than Mills, on Saturday night due to a niggle to his left ankle which he picked up in the warm-up win against New Zealand. He has had an injection but is expected to be fit for Wednesday's game against Bangladesh, with Silverwood admitting that the attack's success created a selection headache.
"It's nothing drastic, nothing that we're overly worried about, so I'm sure we'll be seeing him soon," Silverwood said. "[Mills and Wood playing together] is an exciting prospect, isn't it? You've got two people who can hit that sort of pace at a regular interval, but again it will come down to what we feel will best suit the conditions that we're playing under, and where the best match-ups lie for the team we're playing against."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98