England’s T20i series with South Africa in February was widely regarded as one of the most entertaining that this format has ever produced. Each game went to the last over, two matches were decided on the final ball and over 1200 runs were scored.
It’s less than a year since Eoin Morgan’s side won the 50 Over World Cup in dramatic fashion at Lord’s and England will start among the favourites for the T20 version which takes place in Australia later this year.
A historic double is certainly within the grasp of this squad but what can we learn from that South Africa series and does it suggest that England can triumph in both formats?
Selectors Under the Spotlight
It goes without saying that to win any tournament, a side has to get their selection right. Aside from the notable absence of Jofra Archer, England were almost at full strength for the South Africa series so how did they fare in this respect?
The obvious question concerns the initial preference for Joe Denly over Dawid Malan. It would be unfair to suggest that Denly is a long-form specialist and this is a man who has recorded four centuries in domestic T20 cricket. At international level, however, he’s averaging just 9.60 with a strike rate under 97.00. Those figures are comfortably below the numbers produced with Kent Spitfires and global T20 franchises
In contrast, Malan is averaging over 52 across ten T20 internationals and the left hander produced England’s second century in this format in the series with New Zealand. There were suggestions that Malan was ‘rested’ for non-cricketing reasons but his return should give the batting more potency in the crucial middle overs.
On a similar theme, could we see a recall for Alex Hales? The Nottinghamshire Outlaw spent the Winter with Sydney Thunder and finished the Big Bash as the tournament’s second highest run scorer. Omitted from the 50 Over World Cup squad, Hales can put even more pressure on the selectors to pick their best side if he maintains that form.
Latest cricket betting odds from 888Sport show that England are 9/2 third favourites to win the T20 World Cup in Australia this year. That price has remained constant but it would have a better chance of converting if Captain Morgan has a fit and firing Jofra Archer at his disposal.
The bowling attack that featured for England against South Africa will have to find room for Archer whose heroics in the 50 Over Final underlined just how vital he is to the white ball team. England went into that World Cup with the twin pace bowling spearhead of Archer and Mark Wood and, assuming both men are fit, they will be certain starters in the T20 tournament. That would mean that either Tom Curran or Chris Jordan would have to make way and that would be harsh on either man. Crucial death bowling from Curran and Jordan helped get England across the line against the South Africans but Archer is arguably the most vital player in the set up.
The selectors and national coach Chris Silverwood would have been delighted to see Moeen Ali back in the starting XI. The Worcester Rapids all-rounder played a crucial role in the second game as his 39 from just 11 balls set up a winning total and the Man of the Match award.
Eoin Morgan will also play a key role in boosting totals in the later overs but England have another question to resolve at the top of the order. Jos Buttler has opened the innings with great success for Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League but wasn’t quite so effective against South Africa. Buttler can be a devastating batsman but is his promotion really worth splitting the Jason Roy / Jonny Bairstow partnership that was so effective in the 50 over World Cup?
Can they do it?
T20 cricket matches can be won by fine margins: New Zealand and India needed two Super Overs in their recent series while that England and South Africa produced those two last ball finishes. India and Australia are ahead of England in those outright betting markets but the South Africa series underlined their quality and resilience and few would bet against them completing a World Cup double.