T20 World Cup: Morgan's form remains England's only worry

England captain Eoin Morgan. (AFP)
England captain Eoin Morgan. (AFP)

Mumbai - If the Lankans were difficult opponents, it only gets tougher for Bangladesh against England

By Ayaz Memon

Published: Wed 27 Oct 2021, 12:26 PM

Last updated: Wed 27 Oct 2021, 12:43 PM

England’s demolition of defending champions West Indies in their opening encounter makes them favourites in tonight’s match against Bangladesh. The T20 format has a history of producing topsy-turvy results, but on current form, this looks like a mismatch.

So low has been Bangladesh’s form, right from the warm-up games, that if they beat England, it would be the upset of the tournament. Even Scotland, who were routed by Afghanistan on Monday, had got the better of the Mahmadullah’s team.

Bangladesh just about squeaked into the Super 12, but haven’t inspired much confidence. They were hammered in the first match by Sri Lanka in an encounter marked as much by acrimony as splendid performances by players from both teams.

When Bangladesh got 170-plus, it seemed that they would hold the Lankans at bay, especially after picking up early wickets. When all looked lost for the Lankans, Charith Asalanka and Bhanuka Rajapaksa turned things around in a fantastic 86-run partnership that exposed the hollowness of the Bangladesh attack barring Shakib Al Hasan and Mustafizur Rahman. Fine half-centuries by Mohammad Naim and Mushfiqur Rahim went in vain, but Bangladesh should surely have got 10-15 runs more on the flat track, which would have helped exert greater pressure on the Lankans. Shakib’s cheap dismissal was the biggest setback, showing how crucial the all-rounder is to the team’s success.

If the Lankans were difficult opponents, it only gets tougher for Bangladesh against England, the top-ranked T20 team in the ICC rankings and a big favourite for the title this time. Even without Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer, England boast a side formidable in talent and experience.

Jason Roy and Jos Buttler make a devastating opening pair, Jonny Bairstow is a known match-winner, Liam Livingstone was a great success in The Hundred, Dawid Malan was ranked no. 1 in this format not too long back. All-rounder Moeen Ali, Chris Jordan and Chris Woakes stretch the batting virtually down to no. 10, Adil Rashid the only real tail-ender at no. 11.

England’s bowling is as strong, with depth, variety and experience, featuring a couple of excellent T20 specialists like Tymal Mills and Jordan, apart from multi-format successes Woakes, Moeen and Rashid. All these bowlers have the skills to improvise and exploit the conditions. Spinners Moeen and Rashid, for instance, took six wickets between them against West Indies. They pose a big threat on slow pitches.

A question mark still floats over captain Eoin Morgan’s form. It was dismal during the IPL. Against West Indies, he made an unbeaten 7, but whether he is out of the protracted lean trot is still to be ascertained. Morgan says a big knock’s around the corner. He – and England supporters – will be hoping it comes in this match.

This is the ‘group of death’, and every match is crucial for all six teams. Currently England head the table because of a healthy net run-rate after dismissing West Indies for 55 in the opening match. The defending champions languish at the bottom. But things can change swiftly in this group which also includes Australia, South Africa and Sri Lanka.

While England have the wherewithal and momentum, victory is not a foregone conclusion. It will have to be earned through a focused and hardy performance.

Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator

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