India vs England: One more win and tourists can tinker with work to do


t is no secret that Eoin Morgan is using England’s five-match T20 series in India as a fact-finding mission for this year’s World Cup.

It is an opportunity to experience conditions and try to piece together the complicated jigsaw that is arranging his best players. Covid times mean the experiment has its limitations, because they are playing on only one of the grounds that will be used in the tournament. But it is a gift-wrapped opportunity that, three matches through, they are making good use of.

They have received reminders that luck will play its part, with the winner of the toss winning the match comfortably in all three games, and late-night dew is a factor. They know that they cannot win the tournament without overcoming this issue.

And they have seen their side take shape further.

The hottest debate in English T20 cricket is where Jos Buttler should bat. But that is only really a question outside the camp. Morgan has his mind made up and, as Alex Hales is learning, that mind takes some changing.

Mark Wood’s value rises with every passing game. When he and Jofra Archer, the attack leader, play together, England are much more incisive in the powerplay.

In their five matches together, England average two wickets in the first six overs, which typically cost 6.7 runs apiece. Since Archer’s debut, when only one or none of them plays together, England average 1.1 wicket in the powerplay and an economy of 9.4.

“Every time he [Wood] seems to get the ball in his hand, he looks in fantastic rhythm and is a real match-winner and huge asset to the side,” said Buttler. “Put him together with Jofra, the pace those guys can bowl is intimidating. To take early wickets is always a huge benefit in T20. It put India back and didn’t allow them to attack early in their innings.”

Speaking of the powerplay, the experiment of opening the bowling with spinner Adil Rashid — who has become such a flexible bowler — to match up with opposition right-handers is working nicely, too. Sam Curran is another bowler who is adept at popping up in different phases of the innings.

“I think we are really well covered,” said Buttler of England’s bowling stocks. “We have guys who can bowl express pace, left-arm options. As this series goes on, we’ll be put under pressure at certain times, we’re experimenting and getting closer to what works.”

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