England might be wondering what it takes to get a break.
Just as it was exciting to see the Test team get out of its slump, the Twenty20 team lost another series in the year of the World Cup. Fans thought that white-ball wobbles were a thing of the past in the X-Factor and skinny-jeans era.
England can say that they didn’t have enough players when they lost to India 2-1. This is true. Two bad days at work for a new coach, Matthew Mott, who has only been in charge for two months. They did well enough to win the third T20 as well.
But this is their third loss in a row and their third loss in five series. Before that, they had won seven of the eight games and tied one.
England’s team was so good for so long that it almost chose itself.
Even though they got a consolation win at Trent Bridge, there are still more questions than answers with only 97 days until the start of the T20 World Cup.
#1 Bring the big guns back
Let’s start with what we know for sure. Even though Jos Buttler’s best score in the series was 18, he will open the batting when England plays Afghanistan in their World Cup opener on October 22 in Perth. Jason Roy is likely to bat with him, even though he only scored 31 runs from 43 balls in three innings against India.
Jonny Bairstow will come back to help the middle order. His big-hitting was seen in the shortest format long before his recent red-ball run. Adil Rashid, who missed the India series to go on the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, will come back to do his job as a world-class leg-spinner.
But besides Liam Livingstone as the finisher and Dawid Malan as the most likely number three, there aren’t many others who are sure to play their roles.
#2 Fast bowlers having injuries
The best thing about this series so far has been how fast England’s bowlers have been.
Richard Gleeson, who got rid of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, and Rishabh Pant in his first eight balls of international cricket, and Chris Jordan, who took eight wickets at an economy of 7.25, stood out.
In the last game, Reece Topley was also great. He took three wickets and gave up only 22 runs in a game where 413 runs were scored.
But it’s still not clear who will be the first-choice pacer, and there’s a nagging feeling that England doesn’t have the talent they need to win a world title.
Jofra Archer can do that when he’s healthy, but he hasn’t played for England since March 2021 because of injuries to his elbow and now his back.
Archer recently said that he hopes to be bowling again by September and is still aiming to be ready for the World Cup. However, it is thought that this is unlikely.
Mark Wood is also still out after having elbow surgery. His return has been put off, and there is no telling when he might show up again. England would be so happy if either one or both of them made it.
#3 What should be done with Stokes?
Ben Stokes, who is also sitting out the series, has always played for England T20 when he was able to. But things have changed in the 16 months since he last wore the England T20 shirt.
Stokes is now England’s captain for Tests. His predecessor, Joe Root, was part of only eight T20Is. He used that time to rest and recharge.
Stokes is in the team for the three-match one-day international series that starts next week, which shows that he is still thinking about white-ball cricket.
The exciting 22-year-old Harry Brook showed flashes, especially on Sunday when he got 19 runs off 9 balls. But when Stokes and Bairstow come back, he might miss out.
#4 Malan makes his point yet again
Again, when there was a lot of pressure, Dawid Malan seems to have proven his place.
Even when the left-handed batsman was ranked number one in the T20 international batting rankings, some people said he didn’t deserve to be on the team.
Malan’s low scores in the first two games didn’t make it surprising that the England number three spot was being questioned.
But he answered with 77 from 39 balls, ending a streak of 10 innings without a half-century, during which he averaged only 21.
Malan’s spot could be taken by Stokes if England decided to move him from the middle order, or even Root, whose Test form is so good that some will say he deserves a T20 recall. Malan’s comeback was right on time.
#5 Choose the right mix and let Buttler grow.
In the third T20, England won because they changed the balance of their team by putting an extra batter, Phil Salt, in place of an all-rounder, Sam Curran. In short, it worked. England came out on top.
But the whole line-up did look stronger, with Moeen Ali at number six and Brook at number seven.
In the third game, the home team only used six bowlers instead of the seven they had used in the first two. Suryakumar Yadav scored an incredible hundred, but the attack was still able to win.
It was the first big decision made by the team’s new captain, Jos Buttler after Eoin Morgan retired. Buttler was busy on the field. He was often heard shouting instructions to Jordan to give to the bowlers, running down himself, or talking with his lieutenant Moeen.
After Sunday’s win, Topley said, “I kept looking at Jos, and I couldn’t really tell what was going on in the game. That’s a good thing about him and one of the things that will make him a great captain.”
Many times, these things were said about Buttler’s predecessor. When Rashid, Bairstow, and Stokes come back, England’s XI will look better on paper. Any other comebacks will be a nice bonus.