There are no underdogs left at this level, as the drama of the first week of this World Cup proves. With the reduced parameters of the 20-over format and the competitive nature of each of his eight teams in the first round aiming for the main event which resulted in him winning and losing at least once, any underdog could You can spend the day, when a perceived boss dares to lower his guard.
And in that context, few encounters are more compelling than England v. Afghanistan. On the one hand, it is a clash of cricket cultures, but at its core, they share a single unifying spirit. As far as possible. And given the kind of Perth his flyer that allowed England and Australia to pass 408 runs in his six-charge thriller earlier this month, it’s hard to imagine either line-up holding on.
For all that West Indies offer a cautionary tale, however, it would be quite the shock if England trip up at this early juncture of their campaign, given that they seem at last to have rediscovered their default batting mood. They were made to brawl for a hard-earned 4-3 series win in Pakistan last month, but with four wins in as many completed matches, plus a crushing display of range-hitting in their warm-up against Pakistan in Brisbane, they are primed to plant the front foot for this campaign and live up to the assertion of their captain Jos Buttler that they will be a “dangerous” proposition in the coming weeks.
That’s not to say, however, that their build-up has been plain sailing. The loss of Jonny Bairstow to a freakish slip on the golf course in August was a devastating blow, particularly after the award-winning summer he had just enjoyed, and when Reece Topley stepped on a rogue boundary marker, they lost another of their most potent powerplay weapons. Concerns still swirl about Liam Livingstone’s ankle and Chris Woakes’ quad, and while Ben Stokes’ star quality can never be in doubt, his precise role in the side remains a work in progress after 18 months in abeyance.
But given last summer’s reluctance at home, England failed to win a single white ball series in four attempts for the first time since 2013, giving them a shot at the title they missed out on in the UAE 12. remains in a very good position. months ago.
England’s recent reluctance was to some extent inevitable. Given the extent to which Whiteball’s set-up since 2015 has been crafted in the former captain’s image, Eoin Morgan’s sudden departure in June comes just weeks after the appointment of his new companion Matthew Mott. Later, the set-up was relieved and risked imitation…the former glories rather than striving for the new. Jason Roy’s ill health and injury-related absences added to this sense of stagnation, especially given his recent standout Mark Wood.
However, though literal coincidence, it was ultimately intentional, and the brave decision to offer Alex Hales an olive branch after Bairstow’s failure was ultimately what the team was after. In one fell swoop, the old order was dismantled. Morgan’s culture-first ethos has been replaced with something a little more hopeless, perhaps in keeping with the needs of a golden generation who may not have much of a chance of leaving world fame.
Certainly, this looks likely to be Chris Jordan’s swansong campaign, while the likes of Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali are unlikely to extend far beyond next year’s 50-over World Cup defense in India. As for Dawid Malan, last week he was bristling at the indignity of being cut from England’s full central contracts list, but – as one of the most destructive good-wicket batters in the world (and that is not intended as faint praise) – there could be no better stage for him to restate the credentials that carried him to the top of the ICC’s T20I rankings. Either way, there’s a hunger for England’s cricket at the moment that augurs well for the fights to come.
As for Afghanistan, they rarely need prompting to put up a fight at this tournament. Twelve months ago – and once again automatically seeded in the main draw – they won two of their five games, albeit against the qualifiers Namibia and Scotland, but have undergone a fair evolution themselves in the past 12 months. Loyalists like Mohammad Shahzad and Hamid Hassan have moved on, but with newcomers like Fazalhaq Farooqi and Qais Ahmad already firmly established on the franchise circuit, they pose a different kind of threat and experience. bring.
It will also be an important competition for Afghanistan’s new head coach, Jonathan Trott. Trott, who had previously been an adviser to the England camp for many years, took a position that became vacant when Graeme Thorpe fell ill earlier this year.
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