England’s tumultuous start to 2016 continued as they slipped a 3-2 defeat to South Africa in the One Day International Series in Durban.
Coach Trevor Bayliss saw his side race to a 2-0 lead in the series, but South Africa rallied to level it up at 2-2 before AB de Villiers hit a superb century in the fifth and final contest to wrap up a win for the hosts in Cape Town.
Despite the defeat, England can take heart from the effectiveness of Bayliss’ aggressive approach to one-day cricket, and the players will not be downhearted as they begin their preparations for the ICC World Twenty20 Matches in March.
England are putting out higher scores than ever in the shorter forms of the game. The team is based around aggressive hitters with good technique as opposed to the style of old one day cricket which was more about innings building through a low-scoring approach.
The team is developing into an aggressive, dynamic unit, with good variation in the bowling lineup, and if they can find consistency in the middle order then they can mount a serious challenge for the T20 World Cup trophy.
England are narrow favourites to win their opening game against the West Indies on March 16th. Here are the players whose form will be key to England’s chances of success.
Classy, consistent, and aggressive, Joe Root has been England’s rock over the last 18 months in all forms of the game. The Yorkshire Whippet has emerged as the player England can turn to when they find themselves in tricky situations, with his cool head and supremely confident approach, and he has regularly outperformed his teammates in all forms of the game over the last year.
Root is one of the most technically gifted players of his generation, and if he can translate his magnificent progress in other forms of the game to the T20 format, England have a future captain and middle order talisman amongst their ranks for years to come.
Owen Morgan finds himself in a scenario that will be familiar to England captains of years gone by: he is a proven tactician but in his captaincy he is suffering from inconsistent batting performances.
England have lacked a middle order finisher to bring home big results in recent years, and Morgan has the ability to be that player with his innovative shot selection and aggressive play.
The arrival of Bayliss as coach has suited Morgan down to the ground, and the T20 World Cup could provide the ideal stage for him to silence his critics and lead from the front. 32Red make England 9/10 to beat South Africa in their second game of the T20 World Cup – Morgan will be seeking revenge for the ODI defeat in that game.
Alex Hales has had problems in test cricket because of shortcomings in his ability to deal with balls around the offstump. While he is not necessarily suited to the long form of the game, in the short game he has the capability to destroy teams from the top of the innings with his fearless batting and aggressive style.
If he can continue his current form and replicate the type of devastating performance he put in for England when he made his Cricket World Cup debut against Sri Lanka – scoring his first hundred – then he will be a key weapon in Bayliss’ arsenal.
An aggressive, emotional character who rises to the big occasion, Ben Stokes has suffered criticism in the last two years for being inconsistent and allowing his emotions to get the better of him at times.
Stokes is more than just a batsman; he is a classic English all-rounder who is prone to moments of inspiration that can dig England out of a hole. He is a game-changer and his moments of magic have drawn comparisons to Kevin Peterson and Freddy Flintoff.
He was a key player in the Ashes last summer, and his penchant for destructive batting saw him score 258 runs off 198 balls in the January Test against South Africa. That is the kind of batting form that could put England, who are 8.5 to win the tournament at Favourit.com, in the position to lift the trophy.
For all the quality that Bayliss can call upon in the England batting lineup, the inexperience of the bowling lineup is an area that has been causing concern.
However, after being sent home from the Ashes series two years ago, Steven Finn has bounced back with a vengeance. If he can avoid the injury problems that have nagged him in recent months, he can play a key role at the T20 World Cup in India.
A proven wicket taker in an inexperienced bowling side, Finn could rise to prominence and take the limelight if Stuart Broad is not included in Bayliss’ squad.
Finn was included in the squad to face South Africa in January’s One Day International but injury kept him sidelined. If he can pick up his form and fitness ahead of the T20 World Cup, his excellent strike rate could see him become England’s bowling talisman.