n March, England played five T20s in India, which Eoin Morgan considered the perfect preparation for this World Cup.
At this point, the tournament was still scheduled to take place in India, but the rapidly evolving Covid-19 situation had already moved to the United Arab Emirates – where conditions are comparable if not identical – most likely.
England only used 12 players in the Series 3-2 loss. The bowling attack consisted of six or seven players: Jofra Archer, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid, Ben Stokes, Mark Wood, plus one or two Currans.
Fast forward to the tournament they were preparing for. England have won their first two games with six bowlers. But only Jordan and Rashid are still there.
Archer, Stokes and Sam Curran were excluded from the entire tournament due to injury. Wood and Tom Curran have joined them on the sidelines with – hopefully – shorter term issues.
England ended up throwing a bowling attack, with Chris Woakes, Tymal Mills, Moeen Ali and Liam Livingstone all timing their runs to perfection.
As Bangladesh only made 124 for nine on Wednesday, the four new men picked up all the wickets, including a exhausted Mills (Woakes and Livingstone also shared four catches). Even team member David Willey, who didn’t have a chance to miss the selection, spent two years in the T20i wilderness before returning this summer.
“It wasn’t on purpose that a few players missed the game,” Jordan said. “The guys who came in definitely arrived in good shape.
“The chemistry between the boys and the way everyone took on each of the roles given to them was great.”
Woakes debuted at T20i in 2011 but, from 2015 to June of this year, did not play any internationals in the format, although he is used to the longer forms of the game. Perhaps because they just wanted him to play cricket – some bizarre misfortune meant he hadn’t played in months – he got a T20 booster this summer and stuck around. He’s played six times in the tournament, picked up two wickets and only passed four.
Injuries and the emergence of Archer have meant Mills spent three years out of the squad leading up to this tournament, but all of a sudden he’s England’s banker to the death, as well as an intermediate ram. He hammered a heavy length, picking up five wickets and traveling at just 5.5 years old.
Moeen has come back to grace and found a niche on the power play, although England will need to be smart as the teams linger. Livingstone’s licorice of all kinds, meanwhile, was a happy by-product of his stick, leaving England with no choice but to select him. Livingstone wasn’t even on the team for the T20 exploratory tour of New Zealand in 2019, but he has edged out his rivals this year.
Jordan attributes England’s excellent start to “good focus”, “intensity on the first ball” and “decent homework on the opposition”. They know the West Indies – which are below their best – and disappointing Bangladesh have been extremely accommodating opponents. More difficult challenges await, starting with heavy Australia for righties (bad news for Moeen) on Saturday.
England can shuffle their hand as soon as Wood is available (which is unlikely as of Saturday), to keep their opponents guessing and their own players cool.