Tymal Mills is under consideration for England's T20I side and could force his way into their World Cup plans as a death-bowling specialist through performances for Southern Brave in the Hundred, Eoin Morgan has said.
Preliminary squads for October's T20 World Cup are due to be named in mid-September and England are only scheduled to play three more T20Is - against Pakistan in July - before that date, meaning plans are at an advanced stage. They will then play bilateral series away in Bangladesh and Pakistan before the tournament.
Mills, the Sussex fast bowler, played the most recent of his four T20Is for England in India in 2017. He has struggled with injuries since, but his high pace, left-arm angle and record at the death means he remains on England's radar.
Speaking after England's 89-run thrashing of Sri Lanka at the Ageas Bowl to seal a 3-0 series win, Morgan, England's limited-overs captain, said that there were "probably half a dozen" places nailed down within the World Cup squad, but that the door was open to standout performers in domestic cricket and, in particular, the Hundred.
"I always say that guys can present their best case if they're playing good, competitive cricket," he said. "Looking at the teams or the squads in the Hundred, they're extremely strong, so you'd expect the standard and the pressure to be quite high throughout the tournament.
"If everybody was fit, I don't think there are many [spots] nailed down - there's probably half a dozen. There's a significant period of time [before the World Cup]. We're dealing with experienced guys within, say, the 17 or 18 that have been involved [and] there are guys playing in the Hundred like Tymal Mills who could easily present a case.
"He is an outstanding bowler and we've always been in communication with him, wanting him to get fit, play as much cricket as possible, and leave him alone until the World Cup comes. Playing for Sussex - given the journey that he's been on - on a regular basis, is way better for him than trying to get fit for sporadic T20 series through the year. He's a good example, along with a few other guys, that could present a really strong case throughout the Hundred."
Mills was unable to play franchise cricket over the winter after suffering a stress fracture of the back, but has had a solid start to the Blast, taking six wickets in four appearances and conceding exactly eight runs an over, and restricting the in-form Glenn Phillips at the death against Gloucestershire on Friday night. Since the 2016 World T20, he has the best economy rate in the final four overs (7.60) of any seamer to have bowled at least 50 death overs in all T20 cricket around the world.
Mills told ESPNcricinfo in March that he had spoken to Morgan over a beer at dinner while they were taking part in the Ultimate Kricket Challenge in Dubai in October and was told he was "still on the radar" for selection. Morgan has maintained for a number of years that Mills is best served by playing regular domestic cricket, saying before a tri-series in Australia and New Zealand in early 2018: "Due to his fitness background, we probably wouldn't consider him until a World Cup year."
In particular, Mills is seen as an option to help England with their death bowling, which Morgan has repeatedly highlighted as an area of concern this week. "When we go away from home, it's an area that we can certainly improve on against the best sides in the world," he told the BBC after Thursday's second T20I.
"The two most challenging parts of bowling are in the powerplay and at the death," he added on Saturday. "The powerplay, we're making inroads with; the death, in this series, we haven't been tested, really. Throughout the season, we might see with the grounds that we shift to in some of the one-day games and maybe some of the T20 games, that certain grounds have certain wickets and therefore bowlers are under more pressure - which is a good thing."
England were expensive at the death during their T20I series over the winter, conceding 12.16 runs per over in the last four overs in South Africa, and 11.55 runs an over in India. Having previously been a regular in the format, Tom Curran has played only one of their last eight T20Is after his performances dipped, while the ever-present Chris Jordan has conceded 12.00 runs an over at the death across their last 11 T20Is.
With the new ball, by contrast, England suddenly have a number of options after impressive returns to the T20I side for David Willey and Chris Woakes, who played their first games in the format for two and six years respectively: Willey took 3 for 44 across his eight overs in the series, while Woakes returned 1 for 23 in his seven. "They've presented extremely strong cases," Morgan said. "There is a level of pressure that comes with coming into a very strong side [but] I think both have taken their opportunity."
Morgan also revealed that he does not necessarily expect to have Jos Buttler available for the ODI and T20I series against Pakistan following his calf injury. "Certainly at the moment, it's not a priority that Jos is 100% fit for the white-ball stuff that we're coming through," he said. "Given the cricket he has coming up with Tests, the T20 World Cup and a possible Ashes down the line, I think there are other priorities that he needs to be fit for.
"Throughout this period of where we're at, the more curveballs that we can be thrown the better. You have a real strong backbone if you have replacements for guys who are either injured or being rotated or rested."
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98