England's first game at the T20 World Cup 2022 is just a few days away but should fans of Jos Buttler's be confident or concerned going into the tournament?
England have won the T20 World Cup before, triumphing in Barbados 12 long years ago, and they are among the favourites to lift the trophy for a second time in Australia. But even though they've enjoyed a winning build-up to the competition, are there any areas of weakness which some of their rivals could exploit?
|What||T20 World Cup 2022|
|When||16th October - 13th November, 2022|
|How to watch||Sky Sports|
|Odds||Australia 11/4, India 10/3, England 7/2, Pakistan 15/2, South Africa 8/1, New Zealand 8/1, West Indies 16/1|
England begin their T20 World Cup 2022 campaign against Afghanistan in Perth on 22nd October, a match they are 1/4 to win. With hosts Australia and a powerful New Zealand side also in their six-team group and only two places up for grabs in the semis, it's not far off a must-win against the Afghans.
And even though Afghanistan are a much-improved force on the international stage, it would be a brave man who bets against England. After all, big players are back from injury, the team is playing well, there's a sense they know what their best side looks like (or almost looks like) with everyone buying into their specific roles.
And you cannot argue with results. Since the summer England have played a seven-match series in Pakistan and a three-match warm-up in Australia, and results have generally been excellent. Going to Pakistan minus the injured Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow and the rested Ben Stokes was always a challenge, but one the Three Lions rose to.
They fell 3-2 behind but, when the pressure was at its sternest, won two in a row to nick the series. With confidence sky-high and big players returning, they duly beat Australia 2-0 leaving them in great nick on the eve of the finals.
But there are still questions to ask, none of which surround Buttler the batsman, truly one of the most destructive hitters in cricket who, among other claims to fame, cleared the ropes more times during this year's IPL than any other player. In the three prep matches against Australia – the last of which was rained off – he hit two scores of 60-plus at strike rates of 212 and 158.
England's top six, however, it is permed, takes its lead from Buttler – 9/1 to be tournament top run-maker – and as a unit is arguably more potent than any of their rivals. That isn't to say there is an issue or two, the first of which is over the assumed role of Ben Stokes at No.4. Superman or not, he's only played three T20s since last year and has looked pretty rusty since arriving down under.
That said, the idea of omitting Stokes is pretty fanciful. Dawid Malan is nailed down at three, Moeen Ali at six which means Harry Brook and fit-again Liam Livingstone are probably scrapping for one spot. All-rounder Livingstone fits the big-hitting mould England are producing but again he's hardly lifted a bat or bowled a ball for ages.
England head coach Matthew Mott could, of course, pick all of them and just go with four bowlers. Between them Stokes, Ali and Livingstone can find four overs except, of course, in this format where every single delivery is a meticulously, well-planned event, simply finding a fifth bowler from cast-offs might not make a lot of sense.
It's still a pretty decent trio from which to extract four overs but less relevant when you consider that Sam Curran makes a perfectly acceptable all-rounder coming in at seven. Reece Topley, 25/1 to be top tournament wicket-taker, will play which means, if only four bowlers are involved, two of Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan and Mark Wood would miss out, if England stay loyal to Adil Rashid.
Wood needs nursing after recently returning from injury but he's express quick and bowling with incredible hostility and on fast, bouncy tracks ought to be a certainty. Woakes bowled beautifully in the last game against Australia while Jordan is so adept, so agile, so clever in death situations that he's a hard man to ignore. These are nice problems for Mott and the England camp to have – but making the right calls may well determine how far the Lions go.