England are the defending T20 world champions and are presently the focus of many, more so for who is not in the side, than for its composition.
The English management will play it down and fellow players might shun questions about him, but the enforced absence of Kevin Pietersen from the England line-up has given their chances of retaining the title a major blow. He is the solitary player in England capable of consistently dismantling world bowling attacks, and in his absence England will have to find firepower elsewhere.
Eoin Morgan is a fine T20 batsman and his role in the team becomes even more important in Pietersen’s absence. The squad possesses some big hitters in Craig Kieswetter, Jonathan Bairstow, Jos Butler and Luke Wright but they are all unproven at the international level. South African-born Kieswetter entered the side with great expectations but has so far not set the world on fire. Bairstow looks very promising and could make his name in this competition. He is a strong, clean hitter of the ball and if his shot selection is sound, could find success.
The English batsmen did not fare well against Pakistan’s spin attack when they toured the United Arab Emirates earlier in the year and they can expect a glut of spin bowling during the tournament. Whether their batsman can cope will determine how far they progress in the competition.
England’s fast attack will not find conditions in Colombo, Kandy and the other venues as helpful as those at Lord’s, Trent Bridge and the like and will have to make the necessary adjustments or face severe punishment on unkind Sri Lankan tracks. But in Steven Finn they possess a genuinely quick bowler capable of consistent speeds in excess of 90 mph and who gets appreciable bounce. If the tracks are abrasive and conditions offer reverse swing Tim Bresnan could have an important role.
Much will depend on off-spinner Graeme Swann but over the past months some of the bite in his bowling has disappeared. He should find safe haven, though, on sub-continent pitches and could be England’s greatest bowling threat. Captain Stuart Broad, with both bat and ball, will be a key figure and could either enhance his captaincy credentials during the tournament or succumb to his sometimes fiery temper.
England has previously played 48 T20 internationals, winning 25, losing 20, and with three no results. Of these they have losing records against South Africa, three wins to four defeats with one no result, against the West Indies, three wins to five defeats in eight matches, against Sri Lanka, one win to two defeats in three matches, and surprisingly, they lost their only T20 international against the Netherlands.
Not surprisingly, Kevin Pietersen has been their best batsman in T20 internationals with 1 176 runs, while Swann is their best bowler with 44 wickets in 34 matches at a strike rate of 6.39.
England’s first match is a day/night encounter against Afghanistan on September 21 at the R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.Tournament predictions – should get past the preliminary rounds, after that England will struggle to advance.
Squad: Stuart Broad (cpt), Ravi Bopara, Craig Kieswetter, Alex Hales, Michael Lumb, Tim Bresnan,