World Twenty20: Ben Stokes blow puts England even further off the pace
It is impossible to be optimistic about England’s prospects in the World Twenty20. There are a multitude of reasons to suggest that any one of seven other teams will win the tournament which starts in Bangladesh.
These were simply compounded further by the announcement that Ben Stokes, following a dreadful tour of the West Indies, has withdrawn from the tournament because of a fractured hand. He sustained the injury when he hit a dressing-room locker after being dismissed first ball in England’s final T20 match on Thursday.
Stokes said: “I am really disappointed to be missing out on going to a World T20 with England. It was a huge error in judgement following a frustrating tour for me and I deeply regret my behaviour.”
Chris Woakes, the Warwickshire all-rounder, has been called up as a replacement. At least he is in some sort of fettle after a successful Lions trip to Sri Lanka and is not the locker-punching type.
England are short of form and therefore confidence. The brand of cricket on which they will have to rely looks outmoded, if it was ever in fashion. They are still unsure of their most effective team. The captain has a dodgy knee which will keep him out until at least the final practice match. The coach, one of the best of men, is trying to prepare the team while waiting for the England and Wales Cricket Board to decide if his employment should continue.
In essence, it is no way to try to regain the title they won in style four years ago. The game has moved on, partly because so many of the players from other countries are gaining experience in high-profile club competitions like the Indian Premier League and the Australian Big Bash.
The nature of T20 means that most of the teams – possibly England apart – have a chance of winning if they hit on the right formula early. Australia, on a high after recent Test exploits, think they have a trusty method. Sri Lanka have vast experience but must find a way of reaching the finish line, which has been so often beyond them. Expect Pakistan to be dangerous and for India’s recent poor form to have no bearing on their showing.
It will be a few days before the action starts in earnest. The first week will be taken up with the first round, from which two qualifiers will win the right to take part in the main group stages. England’s real business starts next Saturday when they play New Zealand in Chittagong, venue for all their group matches. Before then they have practice matches in Fatullah against West Indies, to whom they have just a lost a T20 series in the Caribbean 2-1, and in Dhaka against India.
Stuart Broad, their captain, is confident that his patellar tendonitis will ease sufficiently for him to play but he is cutting it fine. Should he make it, he will be distinctly short of cricket and possibly a cutting edge.
Sometime in the next few days Ashley Giles, the coach, must decide what to do about Ian Bell. It seems perverse to have called Bell into the squad and to have played him in none of the three matches in Barbados. Players who have not, putting it politely, achieved quite as much as Bell are being preferred. There is no logic to this when England’s batting is so obviously brittle.
This an exacting period for Giles. He has to prepare a team for a major competition while also wondering if the ECB is looking elsewhere for the permanent successor to Andy Flower as head coach.
Giles deserves the job for which he was previously being groomed. He has a vision for the future but if England start and finish poorly in Bangladesh he may have to be particularly persuasive at interview.
If any win by the men would be a pleasant surprise, England’s women will expect to make at least the semi-finals and will be disappointed not to regain the title they won in 2009. The expectations on Charlotte Edwards’ splendid team have increased since the bold move last month to professionalise the women’s game in England.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Trott has confirmed he hopes to win his England place back in time for the first match of the summer, against Scotland on 9 May. “The ECB know my intentions, wanting to play for again for England,” Trott said.
World twenty20: How it works
Group A: Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, Hong Kong
Group B: Zimbabwe, Ireland, UAE, Netherlands
Top team from each group qualifies for second round
Group One: England, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka, qualifier
Group Two: Australia, India, Pakistan, West Indies, qualifier
Top two teams in each group reach semi-finals
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