By the time England meet for the first time in Dubai on Saturday as a full team in the T20 World Cup, they will only have one week before their opener against the West Indies, who have so famous for the title in 2016.
Eleven of the team’s 15 members, plus three traveling reserves, train in scenic Oman, a short drive away.
Latecomers in the parade at least use their time well. Last night, Eoin Morgan’s Kolkata Knight Riders edged the Delhi Capitals in an IPL qualifying final thriller to secure a spot for tomorrow’s final against Moeen Ali’s Chennai Super Kings.
Morgan’s night distilled his tournament: a good captain, but a duck in the KKR collapse continued disturbing form.
England travel to Dubai on Saturday, where they will join Morgan, Moeen, Tom Curran and Sam Billings, who were not selected for Delhi yesterday.
The preparation week will be busy. They have warm-up games against Pakistan on Monday and New Zealand on Wednesday, which they need to help them decide their squad roster in the absence of injured trio of Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Sam Curran.
The dismal decision of the ECB to cancel the tour in Pakistan has already deprived them of two meetings, the second of which should have taken place yesterday.
IPL helped. While four Englishmen withdrew from the resumption of the suspended tournament due to Covid in May, 10 still traveled. They didn’t run out of playing time, but they struggled to make a major impact, while Curran had his stress fracture.
He has, however, been at least in the United Arab Emirates. Chris Jordan of the Punjab Kings said this week that the teams heavily involved in the IPL have “a bit of a head start” as it was very hot in Dubai, so it’s also a chance to watch the pitches.
These should be of concern to England. The IPL has seen some high scoring matches, but it is the spin that has characterized the tournament.
Indeed, Morgan’s KKR put three frontline spinners to good use. With a week of World Cup first round matches between eight teams competing for four spots in the upcoming main event, these pitches are unlikely to come alive.
England has six seamers and three spinners (India, on the other hand, has four of each). Adil Rashid will lead the way, while Moeen and Liam Livingstone – both of whom are worth a spot for their hitter – will also be called on for the overs. Liam Dawson is a traveling reserve who will now only be recruited if there is an injury, while Matt Parkinson leads a raft of Wrist Spinners left at home.
England’s ability to get more than three of their seamers to play has been affected by injuries to their all-rounders. If Stokes or Curran had been available, Dawid Malan might have been missing.
It sounds perverse, given his stellar international record and N1 T20 ranking, but Malan is a better player in pace than rotation and it can take his time to get started in a team whose strategy is all-out attack. .
With the emergence of Livingstone, Moeen shining against the spin and Stokes, well, Stokes, England’s rich reserves could have cost Malan. Indeed, he still might not be part of the XI, but that would likely mean that a bowler would hit No.7, robbing England of the depth that has characterized their whiteball cricket in recent years.
It’s more likely that behind Jason Roy and Jos Buttler will come Malan, Moeen and Jonny Bairstow in some order, before Livingstone and Morgan lead the second half of the innings. Alongside Rashid, that leaves three bowling points in a six-man attack that is a bit light on the wriggle room if someone takes a toking.
Archer will be the absentee the most. He’s their best crimper on the power play, middle and death.
England have called in Tymal Mills (left) as a direct and quick replacement. He combined well with Jordan at Southern Brave in the Hundred and should play. The same goes for Mark Wood, whose raw pace can challenge dull terrains.
This could leave England light in the power play, with new ball specialists Chris Woakes and David Willey overlooked (although either Mark Wood or Mills likely need a rest).
England have been working on Rashid’s ability to play with the new ball, however, which could prove to be a very useful asset.