England begin their campaign today to remain as world Twenty20 champions. The conditions in Durham will be slightly different from those they will experience in Colombo when the tournament proper begins in a few days – slightly colder, less rain at this time of year, although there was a trace of humidity at the Emirates ICG yesterday – but simply playing the shortest form of the game is the thing.
Despite its growing appeal and the fact that the Indian Premier League is comfortably the most lucrative cricket competition anywhere, international Twenty20 is still in short supply. Stuart Broad, England's captain, for instance has played a total of only 35 international T20s in six years and 17 of those have been in three World Championships.
"I think the campaign starts now in that we're together for the next month," Broad said yesterday. "I'm quite conscious that we have a one-game-at-a-time mentality because the conditions are going to be very different at Durham than they are in a week's time in Colombo, so we prepare for this particular wicket, we play, we review and then we move on to Old Trafford, and that's a good way of gathering momentum rather than looking too far ahead at what we'll do on a Colombo wicket."
While the circumstances will be different, it will be important for both England and South Africa to become accustomed again to the different rhythms of the short form of the game again in this series of three matches in five days. In many ways it would have been better for both sides to decamp to Sri Lanka to play them. The tourists may have an advantage because so many of them have IPL experience.
For both sides the World Championship could hardly come at a worse time, being played when many of the players have just been involved in a sapping, high-intensity Test series. It is probably no coincidence either that England have frequently performed indifferently in the World Cup following Ashes series in Australia or that their only win in an ICC limited-overs tournament, the 2010 World Twenty20, was in May when the players were fresh after two months off.
"Personally as a captain, no I don't think we do play enough because I'll go three months without playing a game," said Broad. "But also the schedule is so full it's hard to see where you'd fit more games in and it also means when you get the opportunity you have to make the most of it."
Twenty20 series details
S C J Broad (Nottinghamshire, captain), J M Bairstow (Yorkshire), R S Bopara (Essex), T T Bresnan (Yorkshire), D R Briggs (Hampshire), J C Buttler (Somerset), J W Dernbach (Surrey), S T Finn (Middlesex), A D Hales (Nottinghamshire), C Kieswetter (Somerset, wkt), M J Lumb (Nottinghamshire), E J G Morgan (Middlesex), S R Patel (Nottinghamshire), G P Swann (Nottinghamshire), L J Wright (Sussex)
South Africa squad
AB de Villiers (captain/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
Today, 2.30pm, Chester-le-Street
Monday, 6.30pm, Old Trafford
Wednesday, 6.30pm, Edgbaston
Odds to win series
England 10-11; South Africa 4-5