Sunday, November 27, 2022

The 3 key questions England face against India in the T20 World Cup semifinals

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England have found their form at the perfect time but an injury to Dawid Malan could mean a different attacking line than in the last four of the tournament

England failed to impress en route to the semi-finals of this T20 World Cup. But that alone can be seen as an encouraging sign.

Jos Buttler’s side flirted with danger until the end of the Super 12 period of that tournament in Australia, overcoming a racquet wobble to defeat Sri Lanka by two balls and four goals in Sydney on Saturday night.

Only a measured, unnerved inning from Ben Stokes, who hit 42 balls from 36 to put his team on a target of 142, sent England over the line at the expense of hosts and defending champions Australia.

Stokes, so often England’s talisman, picked the perfect moment to hit back at those critics who had questioned his place in this Twenty20 team after a poor start to the World Cup.

England’s performance followed similarly unconvincing victories over Afghanistan and New Zealand who, although eventually beaten by 20 runs, threatened to knock Buttler’s team out of the tournament for much of their run hunt in Brisbane last Tuesday.

However, they managed to find a way to win all three of those games – a handy trick in big tournaments. Much like the Germany national soccer team, which has won four World Cups with largely gritty, reckless performances, this Buttler-led team has developed a habit of winning ugly.

Even in their only defeat by Ireland in Melbourne, a result that threatened their passage to the last four, England would likely have won had the rain not intervened as they needed 52 balls from 33 and Moeen Ali would have seeded before the weather confirmed a fiver. Run loss in the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern calculation.

Shocks happen in big tournaments, especially in the shortest format of cricket. South Africa’s last choke in a World Cup against the Netherlands here in Adelaide on Sunday was a reminder of that. Like England, the Proteas only needed to win their last game to secure their place in the semifinals.

However, they failed to finish the job, missing 13 heats to chase 159.

The bedrock of England’s success since their white-ball rebirth in 2015 has been their strong batting power. They have broken the record for highest ODI total three times in the last six years, most recently this year against the Netherlands in Amsterdam when they scored 498 for four. In that game, two members of that T20 World Cup roster – Buttler and Liam Livingstone – combined for 228 runs with just 98 balls.

But in a tournament where batting conditions were tough and many of the games, including England’s last two, were played on second-hand pitches, they had to do things differently.

Once criticized as flat-track bullies, this England team have shown more adaptability and character than their predecessors.

In 2017 England lost to Pakistan in the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy after rolling for 211 on a used pitch in Cardiff. They also lost three group games en route to the final at the 2019 World Cup. Perhaps that match against New Zealand at Lord’s, the closest of encounters finally decided by a border countback, instilled in England the belief that they can win from any situation?

Mark Wood, whose three wickets helped see Sri Lanka through, believes the way this side scraped through to the semi-finals bodes well for the challenges ahead. “Exactly, and that’s positive,” he said. “It wasn’t typical to kick everyone out of the park with a bat. We had to work hard with the ball and grind it with the racquet. That’s not usually our way, so it’s great that we can win in other ways.”

The good news for England is that their semi-final against India in Adelaide on Thursday will be played on fresh grass. That could give the failed batting order — only openers Buttler and Alex Hales have surpassed fifty in the tournament so far — a chance to fire. That can definitely be necessary against tournament favorites India.

Add to that the fact that Stokes, the hero of the 2019 World Cup win, is back in shape with the racquet just in time. “He’s a good man in a difficult situation,” said Wood. “This is another moment in his career where, looking back, he was the man to rely on when the team needed him.”

England may need a few more of those moments if they want to win this World Cup.

Is Dawid Malan fit and who will beat the number 3 if he is out?

England remained silent on Malan’s fitness on Sunday after he limped away with a groin injury in their win against Sri Lanka in Sydney. The official word is they need 24 hours to see if the problem settles down and although England said Malan would have struck if needed on Saturday, there was also an admission he would have struggled with in private.

It now seems certain that Ben Stokes will bat in third for the remainder of the tournament after the all-rounder rediscovered his form with the racquet during a game-winning 42-ball innings against Sri Lanka. Phil Salt, the only backup batter in the squad, is another who could take on the role, but it seems likely Stokes will take over if Malan fails as feared.

Are they adding the extra bowler or batter to the XI to replace it?

Salt is the only option if England decide to stick with the same team balance that saw them through the Super 12 stage. There have been rumors from within the camp that one of Jason Roy or James Vince could be an option when they arrive in Adelaide on Wednesday with the England one-day squad who start a three-game series against Australia next week. But that seems highly unlikely. If Salt got into the XI it would probably be in 4th place.

England could instead choose to pick another bowler for the semi-finals, with Chris Jordan, a trusted death option for many years, and David Willey, whose ability to score with the new ball could be attractive in the knockout stages. the most likely options are . But with middle-class misses – Harry Brook, Livingstone and Moeen have all struggled in this tournament – ​​would England dare weaken their punches ahead of such a critical game?

Will they stick with the same bowling attack in the semifinals?

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