T20 World Cup provides early test for England’s new era

Overview

A new head coach heralds a fresh start for England, left chastened by their failed Ashes campaign in which they were shown to be significantly lagging behind Australia. Their sole victory of the series, in the final T20I, gave a glimmer of hope and it falls to Lisa Keightley, the Australian appointed as Mark Robinson’s successor, to turn that hope into belief and then results. Aside from the notable retirements of star wicketkeeper Sarah Taylor, Laura Marsh and, before them, Danni Hazell, England have largely stuck with the same core group of players in recent years, so Keightley’s focus has been on instilling confidence within the side. Having stated that she wants England “to bowl teams out”, expect to see a positive, clear-thinking approach if Keightley’s game plan comes to fruition.

Squad

Heather Knight (capt), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Kate Cross, Freya Davies, Sophie Ecclestone, Georgia Elwiss, Sarah Glenn, Amy Jones, Nat Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Lauren Winfield, Fran Wilson, Danni Wyatt, Mady Villiers (Coach: Lisa Keightley)

Group fixtures

February 23: South Africa, WACA

February 26: Thailand, Canberra

February 28: Pakistan, Canberra

March 1: West Indies, Sydney Showground

T20 World Cup history

England won the inaugural event in 2009, defeating New Zealand by six wickets at Lord’s. Since then they have finished as runners-up on three occasions – each time to Australia – in 2012, 2014 and 2018.

Form guide

Until last year’s Ashes, England had enjoyed a strong run in T20Is through 2019. They swept three-match series in India and Sri Lanka before a home win against West Indies in the only one of their three fixtures that were not washed out during the English summer. But then came two comprehensive defeats at the hands of Australia before their consolation win in the final game. More recently, they have had one loss and one win against India in the tri-series which also included a Super Over victory against Australia in Canberra followed by defeat to the hosts by 16 runs, a margin which proved too great to see England through to the final.

Key players

Heather Knight appears to be hitting some timely form. Since leading her side to victory in England’s third and final match against Pakistan in December, she struck 67 against India and a career-best 78 against Australia (and the decisive runs in the Super Over with consecutive fours) to be the third-highest run-scorer for the tri-series. Nat Sciver forms part of a three-pronged all-round threat, along with Katherine Brunt and Georgia Elwiss. Her vast experience in the format, internationally and in the WBBL, should come in handy. Sophie Ecclestone may still only be 20 years old and she may be a spinner in a squad which opted for a more pace-heavy attack, but her ability to hold her nerve and turn a match – see that Super Over again – make her dangerous. Fran Wilson is worth watching for her fielding alone. She took one of the best catches of 2019 during an ODI against West Indies and, if you had to pick an England player who could have pulled it off beforehand, her name would have been right up there with Ben Stokes’.

What would be a success at the tournament?

Reaching the final. Keightley, has said that she and her players are “planning to be in the final” with a tone that suggested anything less would not be enough. As they are seeded, England, ranked No. 2 in the world, should not meet the No.1-ranked Australians until the tournament decider, provided both sides finish on top of their respective groups. Australia being arguably in the tougher group, featuring New Zealand and India, helps England but means avoiding any slip-ups in the group stage is crucial to their ambitions.

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