Surprise, surprise. England will face trial by spin today. That will extend for the rest of the World Twenty20, however long they manage to survive in it, and for the remainder of the winter given that their next assignment is in India for a Test series.
This was always likely to be the case but is doubly certain after their lamentable efforts against India in their second group match last weekend. The rest of the world is now queuing up to bowl turning balls at England, or on the evidence of Sunday, balls that do not turn much at all but are slow enough still to instil fear and panic.
Darren Sammy, captain of the West Indies who are England's first opponents today in the Super Eights, said: "We will definitely look to bowl spin against them. I think every- one who comes on to bowl has a big part to play but Sunil Narine is our trump card. He has done well for us in international matches and hopefully he'll have a big impact on the English batting line-up."
Narine (right), the 24-year-old mystery off spinner from Trinidad, burst on to the scene last year when he dumbfounded Australia in a limited-overs series in the Caribbean. He was much less successful in England last summer and his Test debut at Edgbaston was memorable only for his deliveries being regularly dispatched to all parts by Kevin Pietersen.
But Narine's effect in the short form on pitches that grant him a few favours has been extremely valuable for the West Indies and although Sammy might have been playing the old psychological game it was not only that. "When he's got some assistance, he could be a handful," he said.
Stuart Broad, England's captain in the tournament, has spent much of his time since Sunday's defeat reassuring everyone within hearing that the collapse to 80 all out was a solitary performance, just one of those things that happens.
"The spin thing has been around for as long as I have lived, certainly," he reassured again yesterday. "Every time an England team comes to the subcontinent, the spin question comes up. The most important thing is that the guys who take the field here have their options and I know from training that they do – either a get-off-strike option or a boundary option. We just didn't show it the other night."
The reason that the subject arises every time England come to these parts is that each generation seems to go the same way as the previous one. They never learn.
Still, this might be the time and Broad was accurate in one respect. England began their own downfall last Sunday by losing two wickets in the opening overs before spin had even reared its pretty little head. Such profligacy usually has fatal consequences in T20.
"The stats say that if you lose three wickets in the first six overs, you basically lose the game," said Broad. "As a bowling unit, we try to take wickets in the first six. As a batting unit, you must have that risk-reward.
"Yes, you want to be scoring 40-plus [in the six overs of the batting powerplay] but you don't want to be throwing wickets away. That's what we did the other night. Against Afghanistan, we valued our wickets and played strong shots. The other day, we threw our wickets away. It's important to get that balance."
The balance of England's team will probably change tonight with Samit Patel returning for Tim Bresnan, who has been out of sorts lately. England recognise that they too must have spin options, which Patel represents, and they might also like to remember that he shows more nous against the slow stuff than many of his colleagues.
Bresnan may not have enhanced his chances of retention after a clash with the captain while swimming in the hotel pool in Colombo. Attempting the backstroke, the watch on his left wrist clattered into Broad's forehead leaving a circular titanium indent.
An England victory today would settle nerves, defeat increase them as well as calls for the return of Pietersen. There is still no sign of a settlement between Pietersen and the board and time presses.
His contract runs out on Sunday when he becomes a free agent. England will not want to risk that if elimination is beckoning.
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Let the super eights begin... but who's been super and who's been soft so far?
Their abject performance against India suggests they do not have a prayer. Anyone can lose at T20 but that was humiliation. However, what T20 takes away it can also give. If one of their batsmen comes good progress is possible. But suddenly they look short on class. Must bowl brilliantly to stand chance. 5/10
They know they can win this thing. Power batting, dynamic, athletic fielding and just enough in the bowling department are the key components. Will have to keep their composure, which they have not always done. Their basic plan is sound: hit more sixes than the opposition. It could work. 7/10
The benefits of playing at home may be countered by the disadvantages. They have been posted deliberately in all three cities in which the tournament is staged – assuming they make Colombo for the semi-finals. Perhaps not as great as the sum of their parts but individual talents should see them through. 7/10
As usual they are dark (or at any rate all black) horses. They have to make do and mend in so many departments that it is difficult to think they can qualify, but that has been said before. The potency of Brendon McCullum (right) as a match-winner should not be underestimated. One power display from him, a team effort elsewhere and hey presto, they will make it. 6/10
Combative as ever, they look fit and determined. But their reliance on their top three may yet prove their undoing, for the batting after it is distinctly underwhelming. And what an odd mixture their bowling is: 19-year-old Pat Cummins at one extreme and 41-year-old Brad Hogg at the other. 6/10
Who knows what they are capable of? Their bowling line-up contains the three highest T20 international wicket-takers and the batting is explosive and innovative. They look as though they want to be at the races and in a tough group it will still be difficult to stop them reaching the semi-finals again.8/10
Looked a hotchpotch of vaguely assembled talent till the other night when their second-string spinners tore through England. The batting is capable of anything and M S Dhoni (right), their captain, is the calmest in the competition, but the all-round quality of their bowling may still prevent them from going to the final for the second time. 5/10
Can win, should win, probably won't win. From somewhere something will happen to stop them crossing the line first. They must be tired after being on tour for such a long time and the 10 days that the tournament has left may seem like 10 years. But they have strong players in most positions.8/10
S Lanka v N Zealand, Pallekele (11am BST);
England v West Indies, Pallekele (3pm)
Pakistan v S Africa, Colombo (11am);
Australia v India, Colombo (3pm)
England v N Zealand, Pallekele (11am);
S Lanka v W Indies, Pallekele (3pm)
Australia v S Africa, Colombo (11am);
Pakistan v India, Colombo (3pm)
Monday W Indies v N Zealand, Pallekele (11am)
England v S Lanka, Pallekele (3pm)
Tuesday Australia v Pakistan, Colombo (11am);
India v S Africa, Colombo (3pm)
4 Oct Group E winners v Group F runners-up, Colombo (2.30pm)
5 Oct Group F winners v Group E runners-up, Colombo (2.30pm)
Final 7 Oct Colombo (2.30pm)
England (probable) WI (probable)
C Kieswetter (wkt) C Gayle
A Hales J Charles
L Wright Darren Bravo
E Morgan M Samuels
J Bairstow K Pollard
J Buttler Dwayne Bravo
S Patel D Sammy (capt)
S Broad (capt) D Ramdin (wkt)
G Swann S Narine
S Finn R Rampaul
J Dernbach F Edwards
S Davis (Aus) and A Rauf (Pak)
Third umpire: A Dar (Pak)
* PITCH REPORT
The Pallekele pitch is flat and full of runs. Something there for the bowlers but short boundaries will have batsmen salivating.
Conditions will remain warm, dry and overcast throughout the evening, with a maximum temperature of 26C.
* TV TIMES
Sky Sports 1, 2.30-6.30pm
England Evens West Indies 4-5Reuse content