England cling to hope that T20 history repeats itself

 

When England began the last World Twenty20, the planning looked as though it had been done on the back of a fag packet. They had two debutant openers, another bloke returning after three years and six players in all who had not been around two matches before.

A fortnight later they won the tournament racing away from the pack. They were easily the best team there and played vibrantly, imaginatively and fearlessly with that trio of Craig Kieswetter, Michael Lumb and Mike Yardy all instrumental. The squad survivors – and there are eight – would do well to remember those heady days of 2010 in the Caribbean which brought England their first and so far only triumph in a major limited-overs competition. Otherwise, there might already be cause for despair.

England leave for Sri Lanka tomorrow after playing a final T20 today in Birmingham against South Africa uncertain of their best team. They must be absolutely sure that they are travelling without their best player.

As a result of the way it went last time, there is still a realistic hope that things might swiftly change and that from this combination of men a formidable spirit and shape will emerge. It is not looking likely.

The way ahead without Kevin Pietersen, the player of the tournament in 2010, was always likely to be fraught and the distinctly uncongested T20 international fixture list means that they have hardly had a chance to come to terms with it. Pietersen dramatically announced his retirement from all limited-overs cricket at the end of May.

He has cast a cloud over all England's dealings since and, although he has renounced that decision, he remains in discussions and at loggerheads with his employers, the England and Wales Cricket Board. England have regularly uttered the usual mantra that his absence offers somebody else an opportunity – always true in sport – but everything about their defence of the title was geared to him being there.

It is a greater hindrance that Ravi Bopara has chosen this month to be in the worst form of his life. Bopara's significance to the team grew with Pietersen's exit and now on the eve of the competition he has been dropped because he is in such a poor state at the crease.

This leaves a gaping hole in the middle order. Presumably, England intend to fill it with Luke Wright, who batted at No 3 in the second, curtailed T20 against South Africa on Monday.

Wright has had a successful season opening the batting for Sussex in the domestic Twenty20, in which he made 312 runs at the impressive strike rate of 160. But however great the goodwill that Wright generates, it is impossible to see him bringing to the team at No 3 what Pietersen did.

England are still clinging desperately to the fond hope that their young brigade will come good in the nick of time. Alex Hales made 99 earlier in the summer, the highest T20 score for England; Jonny Bairstow has already revealed his credentials; Jos Buttler is finding it hard to make a mark of any kind so far in international cricket. The last match tonight in the NatWest Series, no more than a sequence of glorified warm-ups, may see matters change for the better. England need to reach Sri Lanka and hope that things will somehow come together in their two warm-ups.

Their first match in the tournament proper is against Afghanistan, easily winnable, all too losable for a side unsure of itself. If the bowling does not immediately come to terms with Sri Lankan pitches, England will be in huge trouble.

With all this going on, the selectors met yesterday to discuss the squad for the Test tour of India. Pietersen would have exercised them only if he had suddenly become available and he did not.

There was the added difficulty of finding a new opening batsman to replace the retired Andrew Strauss. By the time they had sat down, two of the candidates – Joe Root and Michael Carberry – were out in the final round of Championship matches. Apart from their obvious use as planning aid, the fag packets might also have been needed so their contents could calm nerves.

Edgbaston details

England (from): S C J Broad, (capt), J M Bairstow, R S Bopara, T T Bresnan, D R Briggs, J C Buttler, J W Dernbach, S T Finn, A D Hales, C Kieswetter (wkt), M J Lumb, E J G Morgan, S R Patel, G P Swann, L J Wright.

South Africa (from): A B de Villiers (capt/wkt), H M Amla, F Behardien, J Botha, JP Duminy, F du Plessis, J H Kallis, R E Levi, J A Morkel, M Morkel, J L Ontong, W D Parnell, R J Peterson, D W Steyn, L L Tsotsobe.

Umpires R Illingworth & R Bailey.

TV Sky Sports 1, 6-10pm. Highlights: Channel 5, 12-1am.

Weather Overcast with intermittent sun. Maximum temperature: 13C.

Odds: England Evens. S Africa 4-5.

South Africa lead three-match series 1-0 ahead of tonight's final game.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower