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England’s Twenty20 performances need serious improvement

The three-match Twenty20 series between India and England concluded with a 2-1 series win for India following a seven-wicket victory in the final game in Bristol. This means that England have lost more games than they have won in the twenty over format since narrowly losing the World Twenty20 final in 2016, which stands in stark contrast to the blistering form of England in the fifty over format witnessed during the 5-0 series whitewash of Australia in June. It is true that the twenty over format has been used to some extent as a testing ground for new players by England. However, despite test captain Joe Root sitting out the final match, it is fair to say that they were pretty much at full strength for this series. The most comprehensive defeat of the series came in the first game, an eight-wicket loss in which ten of the XI who played in the 2016 World Twenty20 final featured. Therefore, England’s difficulties lie deeper than the team selection, and suggest shortcomings in the format.

England took only 10 wickets in the entire series, less than half the Indian total (22)

First and foremost, the opening game in Manchester exposed the frailties of the batting line up to mystery spin bowling. Indian left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav took 5 wickets for 24 runs and dismantled the England batting line-up, dismissing every batter from number 2 to 6 in the batting order. The England batsmen were simply unable to read his googly, with both Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow stumped first ball, and Alex Hales struggling to score off his bowling before being bowled attempting a sweep shot. Unpredictable leg-spin bowlers are key to the top international sides in twenty-over cricket, with the top 5 of the ICC bowling rankings in the format all meeting these criteria and Adil Rashid being one of the few England bowlers to enjoy success in the series. Therefore, the England batsmen need to develop better plans for facing such bowlers, whether that is attempting to use the sweep shot to counteract them or simply deciding to see them out without losing wickets and targeting the other bowlers.

The inability of English bowlers to replicate their Indian counterparts’ performance and take wickets to restrict the Indian batsmen was another noticeable shortcoming. England took only 10 wickets in the entire series, less than half the Indian total (22), and no England bowler took more than one wicket in a match. This suggests that England lack the penetrative, wicket-taking bowlers you need to disrupt the momentum of the opposition innings, with only David Willey with the new ball or Adil Rashid posing much of a threat. The return to fitness of some of the quicker English bowlers such as Mark Wood and Tymal Mills could deliver the penetration that England lack.

Batters such as Alex Hales and Joe Root, who are more used to facing fast bowlers at the start of the innings during the powerplay overs, struggled to adapt

Whilst wicket-taking, match-winning bowlers are hard to come by, the England bowlers also failed to build any pressure by bowling tightly and reducing the scoring rate. It should be a while before we see Jake Ball in an England Twenty20 side again, with his first two England appearances in the format resulting in 83 runs conceded from just 7 overs. The experienced campaigners Liam Plunkett and Chris Jordan have their places in the side more assured but could also have improved their decision-making and the execution of their bowling plans.

Another area of concern for England which was noted by the captain Eoin Morgan was their inability to capitalise on good starts with the bat through powerful hitting at the backend of the innings. Whilst the moving of Jos Buttler, England’s best Twenty20 batsman, to the position of opener in the batting order was largely welcomed and successful, it would appear to have weakened the ability of the England middle order to score quick runs in the middle and at the end of their innings. Whilst Morgan himself simply had an uncharacteristically poor series with the bat, other batters such as Alex Hales and Joe Root, who are more used to facing fast bowlers at the start of the innings during the powerplay overs, struggled to adapt. Luckily, England have plenty of time to improve on these areas with the next World Twenty20 still over two years away.

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