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Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 – Arthur

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Charith Asalanka looks to have made the No. 3 spot his own ahead of the Australia fixture

Asalanka was the player of the match in the game against Bangladesh, hitting 80 not out off 49 balls, after putting on a 69-run partnership with Nissanka for the second wicket, then an unbroken 86-run stand with Bhanuka Rajapaksa.

“I’ve watched every cricketer now in Sri Lanka, but I don’t see batting talent like Pathum Nissanka and Charith Asalanka,” Arthur said. “As a coaching staff and a selection panel, we’ve got to keep giving opportunities to young players, because in the next couple of years they’re going to be the leaders in the batting department.”

Nissanka made 24 off 21 in that game, but in a first round match against Ireland, hit 61 off 47. It is in Tests that he is most highly-rated, having hit a hundred on debut against West Indies early in the year. But the selectors have since had him play all three formats, and if Arthur’s words are anything to go by, team management are intent on investing in him as an all-format batter.

“I’ve always said since the first time I saw Pathum that he’s a wonderful talent. His balance, his feet movement, when he attacks and defends are great. He’s got it all. We saw that on Test debut. He’s played every form now over the last sort of nine months for us. He’s going to play every form, because I think him and Charith are generation next for Sri Lanka in terms of batting.”

Asalanka himself had only made his Sri Lanka debut on the tour of England in June, this year. In eight ODI innings since then, he’s made three half-centuries. But in the shortest format, his record remained unremarkable, particularly in domestic T20s. The fifty against Bangladesh was his first in T20Is, but also just his fourth in T20s, in 33 innings.

“To see Charith’s development has been incredible,” Arthur said. “I remember Charith arriving into our bubble just before we went to England, and to see Charith’s journey from England to where he is now is a credit to himself. The way he’s gone about his work, the professionalism that he’s shown, and his preparation for every game has been fantastic. To see a young player like Charith get better and better has been very rewarding for us.”

That Asalanka’s innings came from No. 3 was particularly encouraging for Sri Lanka who had had problems finding a consistent performer in that position. When the tournament began, Sri Lanka were playing Dinesh Chandimal in that spot, but following Asalanka’s innings on Sunday, he has likely made the place his own. Asalanka suggested it was the position he was most comfortable batting in.

“I haven’t been able to play a lot of matches for Sri Lanka at No. 3,” he said. “But then we changed the batting order, and Avishka Fernando moved down. But I personally like playing at No. 3 in T20s. Since when I was much younger that’s where I’ve played.”

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf



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Ireland recall Tector and McBrine for T20 World Cup 2022 Qualifiers

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Neil Rock and Ben White have been named as the travelling reserves in the squad led by Andy Balbirnie

Harry Tector, the 22-year old batter, and Andy McBrine, fresh from breaking into the top 10 rankings for ODI bowlers, have been recalled to the Ireland squad for the T20 World Cup Qualifiers in Oman.
Andy Balbirnie leads the 14-member contingent, many of whom were part of the 2-1 triumph over the West Indies in 50-overs cricket recently.

“We were all pleased to see the resilience, grit, and fight by the squad on display in the West Indies – these are characteristics that have always been part of Irish cricket, and I know the team is looking to exemplify this in their on-field performances,” Andrew White, Chair of Ireland men selectors, said.

“As we look ahead to the T20 World Cup Qualifier, we know it will be a series of tough, hard-fought games, but hopefully, we can carry the confidence and momentum of the recent series forward to the Qualifier and beyond.”

The T20 World Cup Qualifiers will be contested between eight teams split into two groups of four each, with Ireland having UAE, Bahrain and Germany to face on February 18, 19 and 21, respectively. The top two teams from each group then progress to a semi-final, with the two semi-final winners then going on to qualify for the first round of the T20 World Cup, which again consists of two groups of four.

The top two teams in each group go on to the Super 12s, where eight teams have already booked their slots. Ireland suffered two defeats out of three in round one of the 2021 T20 World Cup – which included a loss against Namibia – and hence failed to make it to the Super 12s.

“I know that the players and coaches were as disappointed as the fans about the early exit from the T20 World Cup last year. But I also am aware how keen this group is to rectify the failings of the past,” White added.

The Qualifiers for the 2022 tournament in Australia are set to start on February 15, and will run up to February 24, with Ireland leaving for Oman on February 4.

Squad: Andy Balbirnie (capt), Mark Adair, Curtis Campher, Gareth Delany, George Dockrell, Shane Getkate, Josh Little, Andy McBrine, Barry McCarthy, Simi Singh, Paul Stirling, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Craig Young

Travelling Reserves: Neil Rock and Ben White



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Match Preview – West Indies vs England, England tour of West Indies 2021/22, 1st T20I

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Big Picture

Gird your loins, get back on the horse, let the show go on. Again. So soon after the Ashes debacle, it barely seems feasible that another England campaign is underway already – and to judge by Sam Billings‘ 15,000 km and four-flight sprint from Hobart to Bridgetown (to follow up his 500km, nine-hour drive from Brisbane to Hobart earlier in the month), it probably isn’t reasonable to expect the white-ball squad’s one representative from that fifth-Test thrashing to be sufficiently combobulated to take his place in Saturday’s starting line-up at the Kensington Oval.

But such time-zone gallivanting is the way of the modern touring world. Two distinct England squads, with ever fewer cross-over characters certain of a place in both set-ups, are spreading themselves across the globe, to cover off the myriad bilateral obligations that keep the creaking jalopy of international cricket on the road.

And in that respect, let no-one be under any illusions how important this particular series is. The ECB dropped a clanger in October last year, when they unilaterally bailed out of their goodwill stop-over in Pakistan – a two-match tour that should have been their first to the country since 2005, and had been arranged to say thank you for the PCB’s efforts in ensuring that the Covid-stricken summer of 2020 went ahead without a hitch.

The same and more applies to this campaign. Before Pakistan’s arrival that summer, West Indies were the first touring team to brave the restrictions of the bio-secure lifestyle, and as a reward for their over-and-above efforts to mitigate the ECB’s multi-million-pound losses, it was agreed last March that this tour would be extended from three T20Is to five, and from two Tests to three.

The timing is ironic, in a week when the ECB have been hinting at the need for quality over quantity to improve their Test fortunes in particular. But for now, the money in international cricket talks loudest and, at this crucial post-Covid juncture, so too does the goodwill.

Such rapid format-hopping isn’t actually anything new, mind you. For years it was tradition for England’s cricketers to remain Down Under after each Ashes thrashing and brace for further beastings in the white-ball format – in 2006-07, the outfield at the SCG had barely been cleared of Australia’s whitewash-sealing paraphernalia when many of the same combatants on both sides returned four days later for their one-off T20I (unsurprisingly, the result was another Australian thumping, even if Andrew Flintoff’s men miraculously bucked the usual trend in the subsequent Commonwealth Bank series.)
At least this time, you sense, the visitors will have more focus on the matter at hand. Certainly Jason Roy seems to have his game brain in gear, to judge by his blistering 36-ball hundred in England’s warm-up match against a Board President’s XI. It was the first century by an England opener since the T20 World Cup and an apt reminder of England’s enduring prowess in the white-ball format, given how quickly their efforts at that tournament became subsumed into the wider narrative of English existential woe.

The need to balance England’s ambitions across formats was an enduring theme in 2021, particularly through the thorny issue of rest and rotation, and while it was perfectly justifiable to give Eoin Morgan’s men every chance to cement their status with a second global trophy, hindsight has blown a big fat raspberry at the ECB’s attempts to compete on two fronts.

Far from being a competition to match the rollercoaster of 2019, the World Cup just gone was an anti-competitive turkey, too readily dominated by correct calls at the toss, and too easily forgettable in its squeezed window between the IPL and the Ashes. England showed their prowess in snatches – most particularly in an against-the-head win over Sri Lanka in Sharjah, and a group-stage thrashing of the eventual champions Australia – but for all the jeopardy that that campaign entailed, they’d have been better off playing heads-or-tails at the pre-tournament dinner than actually planning a coherent strategy.

That said, West Indies would have needed rather more than just a weighted coin to stay competitive at the same event. Five years on from their thrilling triumph over England in the 2016 final, an ageing outfit finally hit the buffers with a clang. Their once-radical policy of sacking off singles in favour of six-hitting came a cropper, and the rematch in Dubai was anything but, as Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid combined to rout their opponents for 55.

West Indies’ campaign culminated in four defeats out of five, the exception being a gutsy defence against Bangladesh, and it confirmed the passing of an epoch-defining generation, with the likes of Dwayne Bravo, Lendl Simmons and Ravi Rampaul all potentially saying their farewells – and so too the inestimable Chris Gayle of course, although he will surely never officially quit.

And now, with only ten months to go until yet another T20 World Cup in Australia – a tournament for which the draw was made on Friday – it’s time to mould a new team fit to lace their forebears’ Champion-dancing shoes. The initial impressions haven’t been full of promise – a 3-0 thumping by Pakistan in Karachi was followed by Ireland’s 2-1 win in their ODI series last week, after which Phil Simmons’ concerns about the quality of young batters in the Caribbean rather echoed the existential concerns about county cricket’s next generation of Test performers.

For England, however, this is a chance to take stock after the disappointments of the winter. Given the success of their own batters in the BBL, there’s no reason to think they won’t once again be among the favourites come the next World Cup in November. But as their opponents inadvertently demonstrated in the tournament just gone, a failure to evolve can catch even the most groundbreaking outfits on the hop. Morgan, in particular, may find himself chewing over that particular point with vigour.

Form guide

West Indies LLLLL (most recent first)
England LLWWW

In the spotlight

Phil Salt admitted to ESPNcricinfo this week that he had been underwhelmed by his England debut in Cardiff last year – after sampling the New Year’s Eve party atmosphere at the Adelaide Oval in the BBL, and similarly rowdy venues on the T20 franchise circuit, it was all a bit genteel for his liking, as he made his international bow against Pakistan, in front of a Covid-limited crowd and in bizarre circumstances following the quarantining of the main England squad. Perhaps things might feel more real second-time around, however, as he prepares for a probable T20I debut in Barbados – the island where he spent six of his formative years from the ages of 9 to 15. Salt’s haul of 104 runs from 89 balls in three ODIs showcased a relentless, full-throttle approach that marks him out as something of a Roy clone – he has no qualms about cranking up the aggression from the outset, even if bowlers such as Shaheen Shah Afridi have got the measure of his methods. And though the eventual return of Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler is likely to squeeze him back onto the bench, Morgan is known to value selflessness when it comes to selecting his batters. He’s got a chance to impress with his intent as much as his returns in these five games.
At the age of 26, Nicholas Pooran’s time is now. The West Indies batter averages 23.47 in 49 T20Is, at a strike-rate of 128.03 that doesn’t quite reflect his pre-eminence either. However, with the passing of an irreplaceable generation, his years of apprenticeship in their batting line-up have suddenly come to an end. Two-and-a-half years have passed since Pooran’s solitary international hundred – a stunning 118 in West Indies’ valiant pursuit of a hefty Sri Lanka target at the 2019 World Cup – but he made his highest T20I score of 64 in his most recent outing in Karachi, which hints at an upward trajectory. Either way, it’s possible he’s come through the toughest run of form of his career to date, the haul of 85 runs in 12 IPL matches for Punjab Kings in last year’s IPL, which included 28 in his first seven games in India, prior to the tournament’s postponement.

Team news

There are a number of marginal calls for West Indies to make as senior players return having missed the 3-0 defeat in Pakistan. Kyle Mayers opened ahead of Shai Hope in West Indies’ practice match and may get the nod to partner Brandon King. Fabian Allen has recovered from Covid-19 and is likely to start in the lower-middle order.

West Indies (possible): 1 Brandon King, 2 Kyle Mayers, 3 Nicholas Pooran (wk), 4 Roston Chase, 5 Kieron Pollard (capt), 6 Rovman Powell/Jason Holder, 7 Fabian Allen, 8 Odean Smith, 9 Dominic Drakes/Romario Shepherd, 10 Akeal Hosein/Hayden Walsh Jr, 11 Sheldon Cottrell

Liam Livingstone missed England’s warm-up game with a mild illness and will sit out the opening T20I as a precaution – although it is understood to be non-Covid-related. Billings raced to Barbados from Hobart after his last-minute Test call-up but is unlikely to be ready to play after a gruelling long-haul journey. That would leave Tom Banton and Salt competing over the gloves, with England’s warm-up XI suggesting that Salt could be recast as a finisher, especially in Livingstone’s absence. England opted for a batting-heavy strategy in the T20 World Cup but may consider fielding an additional seamer, or the extra spin of Liam Dawson.

England (possible): 1 Jason Roy, 2 Tom Banton (wk), 3 James Vince, 4 Moeen Ali, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Phil Salt (wk), 7 Liam Dawson/George Garton, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 Tymal Mills, 11 Saqib Mahmood

Pitch and conditions

Kensington Oval will be limited to 50% capacity, due to Covid restrictions, but administrators are anticipating good crowds throughout the five-match series. There has not been much T20 cricket played there of late but scores were surprisingly low there during the 2019 CPL, with only one team breaching the 150 mark in the five games the ground hosted. The forecast suggests that cross-winds could be a factor, and there is a small chance of a rain interruption at some stage in the run chase.

Stats and trivia

  • This will be the first time that Barbados has hosted international cricket since becoming a republic, in November last year.
  • England have won four and lost two of their six previous T20Is in Barbados, although their record against West Indies at the venue is played three, lost two.
  • Both of those defeats came in the 2-1 series loss in March 2014, which is perhaps best remembered for the broken wrist that Ben Stokes sustained after punching his locker door.
  • In better Barbados memories, Bridgetown is also the venue for England’s World T20 final victory over Australia in 2010, their first piece of global silverware.
  • Morgan is England’s sole survivor from the victorious XI, although Salt – then aged 13 – was an onlooker in the stands that day.

Quotes

“In Pakistan, yes we lost the three games but there was a lot more energy, a lot more enthusiasm and that’s the group that’s coming into this series here against England. We have a lot of new faces and a lot of guys who want to make an impression and be part of the team going forward, so I think from that point of view it is not as difficult as it would seem.”
West Indies’ coach, Phil Simmons believes his side has plenty room for improvement.

“We’ve got some gun players. There are some players in training that have impressed so much. You’ve seen what Banton can do, he’s an incredible talent, a young talent and will be learning a hell of a lot.”
Jason Roy has high expectations from one of his potential opening partners.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket



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WI vs Eng 2022 – Eoin Morgan

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Chance for fringe players to grab opportunity as focus turns to Australia 2022

Eoin Morgan, England’s captain, says that developing his side’s bench strength during their five-match T20I campaign against West Indies is more important than pushing for an outright series win, but he hopes that the team environment that has been fostered in recent years will be one that allows the results to look after themselves.

With Saturday’s opening fixture taking place only days after the end of England’s Ashes campaign, the squad in the Caribbean is missing many of the men who featured in the T20 World Cup in the UAE in November, including Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Mark Wood and Chris Woakes. Sam Billings has belatedly linked up with the squad after featuring in the fifth Test at Hobart, but is unlikely to feature after his lengthy journey.

Their absences offer a rare chance for some of England’s fringe candidates to make an early case for the next T20 World Cup in Australia – including the likes of Tom Banton, Phil Salt and Saqib Mahmood, whose dramatic four-wicket debut for Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash in December continued a run of English success in the competition that augurs well for November’s global tournament.

“The one benefit we have, we know our guys play well in Australia, so projecting towards that makes us feel a little more at ease,” Morgan said. “It makes us feel a little bit more comfortable. We know what works out in Australia. So planning the method that we’re trying to implement will be very similar to the method that we used.

“A lot of talented guys will get opportunities throughout this series which is very exciting, not only for the team, but for them as well,” he added. “They don’t get a lot of opportunity to go through a process like this so, for our long-term planning, as we strive to have deeper, stronger squads, it’s very important. The group that we would normally take to a World Cup has been together for quite some time, so the planning behind that is important to us.”

Asked if he was more concerned about player development than the series result – linked, as it is, to England’s No. 1 ranking in T20Is – Morgan conceded that the balance was a tricky one to strike. However, having impressed in their run to the semi-finals in the recent T20 World Cup, where their loss to New Zealand could be attributed in part to some misfortune at the toss, Morgan said he was confident the new recruits would quickly absorb the white-ball squad’s high standards.

“The whole tour is one where the development of our game is more important than a series win,” Morgan said. “We’ve gone through this process before, and identifying the level of intensity, and our performance is far more important than the result.”

“Normally the result looks after itself, and going through that process has kept the identity of the team strong,” he added. “The mantra in which we play has created a very healthy environment, and hopefully guys that come in can feel comfortable enough to try and apply that.”

However, Morgan also acknowledged that it was important to reset after a global tournament, and not simply assume that the players that had served the team well at one event – as was the case after England reached the semi-finals at the 2017 Champions Trophy, and again when they won the 50-over World Cup in 2019 – were the right ones to take them onto the next.

“Sometimes it takes longer than other situations, but you need to have courage to go through this,” he said, “to be vulnerable enough to go back and learn, and go through the same process we did four years ago and then two years after that, in order to see long-term results.”

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket



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