What next for England after T20 World Cup exit?

England’s death bowling cost them dearly in T20 World Cup but should be remedied next year by returns of Jofra Archer and Tymal Mills; with Ben Stokes also set to come back, Eoin Morgan’s side still have great chance to become dual white-ball world champions by the end of 2022

By David Ruse

Last Updated: 11/11/21 2:32pm

Eoin Morgan embraces Kane Williamson after England’s defeat to New Zealand in the T20 World Cup semi-finals

When you are the top-ranked T20 international side in the world, the reigning 50-over champions and your opponents needed 57 from the final four overs, losing a World Cup semi-final is going to grate.

The record-breaking standards Eoin Morgan’s England side have set mean they will not view this campaign as an overwhelming success – the skipper said his players were “devastated” after their defeat to the Black Caps in Abu Dhabi – but neither should it be considered a failure.

This is the fourth ICC white-ball event in a row where England have reached at least the semi-finals (2016 T20 World Cup, 2017 Champions Trophy, 2019 50-over World Cup, 2021 T20 World Cup) and this run was achieved without Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Sam Curran and with death-over specialist Tymal Mills going down injured during the tournament.

Morgan said reaching the final would have represented “one hell of an achievement”. Reaching the semi-finals is a pretty good feat, too.

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Michael Atherton believes England will not see a ‘mass exodus’ of the squad ahead of next year’s T20 World Cup

Michael Atherton believes England will not see a ‘mass exodus’ of the squad ahead of next year’s T20 World Cup

England do not require revolution as they did after the debacle of the 2015 World Cup. Evolution is perhaps even too strong a word.

A few minor tactical tweaks and the return of some key players should have England right in the mix, and possibly even favourites, for the next T20 World Cup in Australia a year from now.

Morgan’s men did much right in this World Cup.

Powerplay wickets – they took 15 of them across their six games. The ability to adapt – shown by Moeen Ali being given the new ball in certain matches and the way Jos Buttler plotted his superb century against Sri Lanka on a sticky pitch. Blistering displays with the bat – shown by the way Buttler destroyed Australia and finished his innings against Sri Lanka.

In the main, their fielding was exceptional as well.

But one thing they did “not get quite right”, as Nasser Hussain observed in the wake of Wednesday’s loss to New Zealand, was their death bowling. If they had, they would be preparing for Sunday’s final.

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Nasser Hussain and Michael Atherton discuss England’s death bowling and how Liam Livingstone impressed in the UAE

Nasser Hussain and Michael Atherton discuss England’s death bowling and how Liam Livingstone impressed in the UAE

There were warning signs during the win over Australia in the Super 12 stage, when Aaron Finch’s side plundered 50 runs from the final four overs, though that did not cost England, with Australia only posting 125 all out and Buttler tonking his side past that total with 50 balls in reserve.

It did cost England against South Africa, though, as they ended their group campaign with a 10-run loss – Proteas pair Rassie van der Dussen and Aiden Markram creamed 71 runs from their final five overs, punishing Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan and Mark Wood when they missed their mark.

New Zealand then thundered 57 runs from the final 18 balls of Wednesday’s semi-final to get home with an over to spare.

Jordan’s wide and boundary-infested 17th over went for 23 due to his errant deliveries and Jimmy Neesham slamming him for two sixes and a four. Adil Rashid’s 18th went for 14 as Neesham and player-of-the-match Daryl Mitchell swatted a six apiece. Chris Woakes’ 19th went for 20 as Mitchell drilled successive sixes and then a match-winning four off a full toss.

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Kevin Pietersen says losing fast bowler Tymal Mills to injury earlier in the tournament was huge for England, who needed his skillset in the semi-final

Kevin Pietersen says losing fast bowler Tymal Mills to injury earlier in the tournament was huge for England, who needed his skillset in the semi-final

Those back-over travails could be remedied in Australia next year by the returns of Archer and Mills, who are not only two of England’s finest performers at the death but also the game’s. If they had been available in Abu Dhabi, things may have turned out very differently.

Stokes should also return for the next T20 World Cup, having missed this one as he prioritised his mental wellbeing and fixing the finger injury he initially fractured during the Indian Premier League in the spring.

As Steve Smith said when it was confirmed that the England all-rounder would return for the Ashes later this year, “any team is more dangerous when you’ve got someone like Ben Stokes playing”. He will be back in England’s T20 side, so what does that mean for the current top six?

Well, Buttler’s not going to drop out and neither, you would imagine, would fellow white-ball mainstays Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow, despite the latter having a fairly quiet World Cup in the UAE.

The skipper says he wants to stick around, too.

If Morgan were not captain, you would look at his recent run of scores, both internationally and in domestic T20 cricket, and say he was ripe for the chopping block. But he is captain – a brilliant captain, arguably the best in world cricket, and one who has transformed England’s white-ball style. It is unlikely he is going anywhere just yet.

Eoin Morgan hopes to carry on as England captain for the 2022 T20 World Cup

And good luck knocking Liam Livingstone out of this side. The Lancashire man has almost made himself one of the first names on the team sheet with his ability to smoke the ball out of the park – he hit an England-record 42-ball hundred against Pakistan last summer – and bowl off-spin and leg-spin with such success. He is also electric in the field.

We did not get to see a sustained Livingstone innings in the UAE with him batting in the lower middle order, although he still managed to maul South Africa seamer Kagiso Rabada for three sixes in a row in Sharjah, including one over the leg-side that went a whopping 112 metres.

In fact, it was Livingstone’s bowling which really benefitted England. He picked up six wickets from 15 overs at an economy rate under six as he played a pivotal role in the middle overs. Three times he bowled his full allocation of four overs, while he got through three against Bangladesh, spinning the ball away from both the left and right-handers.

Hussain said: “When I first thought of Livingstone, I thought of a big-hitting batter who bowls a bit of this and that. But when you watch him warm-up and bowl, he lands them on a sixpence – off-spin, leg-spin, off-spin, leg-spin, which is not the easiest thing to do. If you have a right-hand, left-hand combination, Livingstone is worth his weight in gold.”

Will Dawid Malan be in England’s first-choice XI for the next World Cup?

Which brings us onto Dawid Malan, perhaps now the most vulnerable member of the top six once Stokes returns, despite the fact he was the top-ranked T20I batter on the planet until he was recently usurped by in-form Pakistan captain – when is he not in form?! – Babar Azam.

Malan, England’s glue in a team of gun-slingers, was the second top-scorer against New Zealand, behind only Moeen Ali (51no off 37), scoring 41 from 29 balls and many of his runs were coruscating cover drives, before he edged the 30th delivery he faced through to wicketkeeper Devon Conway.

Many will argue, and indeed have, that Stokes could do fellow left-hander Malan’s job at No 3 and more besides, and he would surely not have slipped down the order against West Indies in game one in the way Malan did as England looked to chase down their measly target of 56 in quickfire time.

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Head coach Chris Silverwood says England threw everything at New Zealand in Wednesday’s semi-final

Head coach Chris Silverwood says England threw everything at New Zealand in Wednesday’s semi-final

Still, if one of your ‘issues’ is a batter ranked world No 2 and with an average in excess of 40, then you have not got too much to worry about. By and large, England should be the same again in Australia as they once again plot how to win the short-format World Cup for the first time since 2010.

England’s squad is experienced – Livingstone, at 28, was the youngest player to make an appearance – but not ancient, with even the three oldest players, Morgan (35), Malan (34) and Moeen (34), surely having enough in the tank to make next year’s showpiece at least. As Sky Sports Cricket’s Michael Atherton has said, no mass exodus is required.

England could still become the first men’s team to hold both World Cup trophies simultaneously. They will firmly believe that dream has been merely delayed, not dashed altogether.

Watch the T20 World Cup final as New Zealand take on either Pakistan or Australia in Dubai live on Sky Sports Cricket and Sky Sports Main Event from 1pm on Sunday.

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