T20 World Cup: England well placed, but wary of the unknown


Jos Buttler (left) will lead England to a World Cup for the first time

Former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once spoke of “known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns”.

As England wrapped up the serious part of their preparations for the T20 World Cup in wet Canberra, it ended as a spectacle. 2-0 series winners Against the hosts and champions Australia, they have their familiars, unknowns and unknown unknowns.

Even without Jason Roy out of form and Jonny Bairstow injured, England know they have the potential to match any other team in the tournament.

Rather, they will know that the death-bowl has proved its undoing in the last two T20 World Cups — the 2016 final and the semi-final against New Zealand 12 months ago.

Sam Curran seems to be preparing to bowl in those moments of pressure, with promising results.

England will also be under no illusions about the task of navigating their way through the draw, having landed on the tougher side.

A team of Australia, New Zealand and Afghanistan already looks tricky, with resurgent Asia Cup winners Sri Lanka (under the former England manager) and the chance to include one from the West Indies, Ireland, Scotland or Zimbabwe.

However, not making it to the finals would be considered a major failure, and coach Matthew Mott has made some wise counter-appointments with Australians David Saker and Mike Hussey in his backline.

Saker was the bowling coach who helped mastermind the 2010-11 Ashes success, while legendary batsman Hussey needs no introduction. To Mr. Cricket to Mr. England.

England’s strangers begin with Mott. This will be the first tournament under his management, after a difficult start to his reign in the domestic summer. Pakistan’s 4-3 series win against a half-strength team was a good result, the win against Australia even better.

Mott already has the momentum of a 2022 World Cup winners’ medal, having achieved Australia’s women’s 50-over success in April.

Buttler also takes charge at a world-class event for the first time and it will be fascinating to see how England cope without the calm command of retired former skipper Eoin Morgan.

While Morgan often had the benefit of a settled side and prioritized the importance of the white-ball team, Buttler will be in no doubt that Test cricket is England’s main focus.

It means England’s first-choice T20 side has only been assembled at the last minute, partly because the multi-format players were rested for limited-overs matches over the summer, but also because a treatment room full of fast bowlers has only just begun to empty. .

It is a huge boost for England to have Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan and especially Mark Wood available, but it will be questionable how much they need to grow all three, especially the lethal Wood, who is in current form. the fastest bowler in the world. Jofra Archer’s absence is sorely felt.

Less prominent, but perhaps greater, is the form of Adil Rashid. The leg-spinner has arguably been even more important than the batting superstar during England’s white-ball dominance, but he has endured a poor spell.

His economy and average in 2022 are worse than any other year since 2009, the first in international cricket.

And then there is the issue of Stokes, who has returned to England’s T20 side for the first time since the start of 2021. Questions of how best to use your 18 months away for fitness, mental health and rest reasons. The Test captain has become louder in the shortest form.

First, Stokes is Stokes – one of the greatest cricketers of his generation, who can single-handedly save the most hopeless situation. As Buttler said, the big moments seem to find him.

Thanks to Carlos Brathwaite, Stokes has the motivation for the unfinished business of the T20 World Cup and the pedigree of once being named the most valuable player in the Indian Premier League.

But Stokes has only played T20 matches of any kind since July last year. For example, Liam Livingstone has appeared in 59.

Even Superman can get rusty if he hasn’t saved the world in a while. The villains are more sophisticated, the problems more complex, the rescues more impossible.

For now, England should continue to protect Stokes, not just because of the impact he can have with bat, ball and on the field, but because his mere presence lifts his team and strikes fear into the opposition.

However, the inclusion of Stokes makes a decision about the right balance of the XI. If England want Stokes, Livingstone and Moeen Ali all in the same side, they should leave Harry Brook’s batsman out, or go with just four front-rowers.

The latter would probably be the favorite choice, as the trio of all-in-ones is enough to bowl the spins of at least a fifth bowler, and probably more.

However, it is worth keeping in mind that England, in general, batsmen win matches, and bowlers win tournaments. They may have to switch to a five strong front line attack.

At least Buttler, Mott and the rest will know about these overdue issues. It’s the danger of the unknown unknown, thrown out more often in T20 World Cups than in any other tournament, England could be the biggest threat to become concurrent champions in both limited-overs formats.

Last year in the United Arab Emirates, England were probably the strongest team in the competition, due to injuries and a crucial semi-final draw against New Zealand.

They had one hand on the trophy six years ago, until Brathwaite’s four final sixes came off the bowling of a shattered Stokes.

The T20 World Cup has a history of producing a winner out of thin air. Unlike its 50-plus sibling the marathon, the 20-plus championship is a sprint where your start doesn’t even matter as long as you finish well.

In 2010, a last-minute England team could have been knocked out by Ireland had it not rained in Guyana, but they went on to lift the trophy.

Four years later, an unheralded Sri Lanka stunned India’s might in the final, and last year Australia recovered from England’s humbling in the group stage to become world champions.

England knows what they know and what they don’t know.

It is the unknown unknowns that make the T20 World Cup so dangerous, exciting and unpredictable.