Matches (12)
IPL (2)
PAK v WI [W] (1)
RHF Trophy (4)
WT20 WC QLF (Warm-up) (5)

David Willey hopes for dew rewards after England damp-ball practice

Slippy conditions may encourage seam-dominant attack versus West Indies

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
David Willey celebrates a wicket with his team-mates  •  Aijaz Rahi/Associated Press

David Willey celebrates a wicket with his team-mates  •  Aijaz Rahi/Associated Press

"I actually think we've played really well there, we've probably had the wrong side of the toss. The dew, from about the eighth over [of the chase] was extremely challenging. I can't fault anybody's efforts."
Eoin Morgan's reflections after a defeat in the 2020 edition of the IPL went against a fundamental sporting idea: if you play better than the opposition, you tend to win. But in floodlit games in the UAE, particularly in October and November, there is another factor to consider: dew.
Generally setting in either side of the innings break in a game starting at 6pm local time, it has the effect of making the ball harder to grip for the defending team's bowlers and fielders. That bias towards the chasing team has been apparent in the IPL: out of the 25 night games played after its mid-season resumption in the UAE, chasing teams won 17.
The challenge of coping with the dew is heightened for teams who rarely have to worry about dew when playing at home, so it comes as no surprise to learn that England have been focusing on how to cope with it in their build-up to the tournament ahead of their first game - under lights - against West Indies on Saturday.
Their first warm-up match against India highlighted the issue. Batting first, England had posted 188 against India at the ICC Academy in Dubai, but their attack as a collective struggled for control in the run chase. Chris Jordan bowled the 19th over with 20 runs still required, but a series of attempted yorkers ended up as full tosses after the ball slipped out of his hand; his six balls cost an eye-watering 23.
"The amount of dew and sweat is something we've had to manage very quickly," David Willey said on Thursday. "We've got to think about how we're going to keep our hands dry, keep our arms dry, dry the ball, and also be able to bowl with a wet ball."
England's players have employed some unusual methods in training: "dunking balls in buckets and catching, fielding and bowling with those wet balls," Willey explained. "We'll probably get some more towels on the way to change them every over for the lads that are heavy sweaters, and sweatbands and things. It's never going to be perfect but it's certainly worth putting things in place to make it manageable."
Temperatures have been in the mid-30s degrees celsius in the UAE in recent weeks - they will cool down slightly as the tournament wears on, which could mean dew forms earlier and evens conditions up - but the stifling humidity has meant that 'feels like' temperatures are above 40. "You start sweating and you just can't stop," Willey said. "Just saturated from head to toe."
England's fixture list for the tournament, which sees them play four group games out of five under lights, exacerbates the importance of managing the dew - and may also justify their decision to pick a single specialist spinner in their squad in Adil Rashid, with Moeen Ali and Liam Livingstone generally used as part-timers by Morgan over the last 18 months.
While England's spin stocks are not exactly deep, there was some level of surprise to see Liam Dawson named only as a reserve and Matt Parkinson miss out on the squad entirely while spinners were enjoying success in the IPL, but England may well feel that their seamers will be more effective, particularly if dew is in play in both innings during the knockout stages.
"There's no denying that for spinners, if they're trying to grip the ball, it's going to be a challenge if it's soaking wet," Willey said, while Rashid added on Wednesday: "You've got to find a way, you can't hide behind it, whether you're a seamer or a spinner."
Willey himself is unlikely to be bowling at the death for England - though he has been working on a new slower ball - but is instead relishing the opportunity to face West Indies on Saturday. He is not a guaranteed starter but has been successful against them in the past - he took 3 for 20 in the 2016 final, and 4 for 7 in the sides' most recent T20I - and the make-up of their batting line-up should play in his favour: West Indies may field as many as four left-handers in their top five, and Willey has a better economy rate (7.25 vs 8.09) and strike rate (15.9 vs 22.1) against left-handers than right-handers in all T20s since the last World Cup.
"The ball swinging away from the left-handers in all formats can be dangerous, and in the white-ball game, when they're looking to be aggressive, hopefully that goes in my favour," he said. "I've been told I've got a decent record [against left-handers] and that might swing in my favour for getting the nod in that first game."
And having been left out of the 50-over World Cup squad on the eve of the tournament two years ago, Willey suggested that he has learned a lot from the experience. "It's definitely made me a better person. To be part of it for four years and miss out was obviously disappointing but the personal growth from me thereon… has been massive. I'm playing every game as if it's my last and really savouring the moment of pulling on that England shirt."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98