Chance for Broad's young England to hone T20 skills

 

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Amid all the fuss about becoming Test champions of the world it is easy to forget that England got there first in Twenty20. It may have elicited much less fuss and, given the general sniffiness towards the shortest form of the game, it probably did not receive the attention it deserved.

England won the title against the odds and expectation in the Caribbean in the spring of last year in an exhibition of assertive cricket every bit as complete as their recent Test performances. In a way, their campaign to retain it begins today with a one-off match against India at Old Trafford, a curtain raiser to the series of five one-day internationals played across 50 overs which begins in Chester-le-Street on Saturday.

International T20 continues to struggle for a context if not an audience. The International Cricket Council, between a rock and a hard place, is reluctant to promote it too forcefully lest it detract from the other limited-overs form or, more worryingly, from Test cricket.

The intention is to have a world event each two years but all the teams who congregate for the fourth tournament in Sri Lanka in September next year will be short of match practice. Since winning the trophy in Barbados in May last year with a resounding victory against Australia, England have played only five further T20 internationals. Indeed, there have been only 26 throughout the world.

There will hardly be overkill between now and the next championship. England will play two more in India in October, three against Pakistan in the new year and perhaps four more at home next summer.

The selection of the squad for today's match against India shows that England are rebuilding now. By including Ben Stokes, pictured, Alex Hales and Jos Buttler in the cadre of 13, they have gone for fearless youth, which may also assist them in the field. It is not fanciful to think they all may eventually be bound for Sri Lanka in 12 months' time.

One obvious drawback to any hopes of becoming champions again is the lack of opportunity for the new captain Stuart Broad. He has had little captaincy experience and that will still be the case when England come to defend their title. Every match he plays and every decision he makes will be important to the team's development.

By the time the one-day series begins on Saturday, England will have had four captains in less than a fortnight – Andrew Strauss in the final Test at The Oval, Eoin Morgan in the one-dayer in Dublin, Broad today, with Alastair Cook at the weekend as official ODI captain. It is not, at least, a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth.

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