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West Indies vs England: New-look England ready to banish memories of World Cup heartache
England’s inexorable march to the Twenty20 World Cup final was stopped in its tracks by New Zealand. With a shot at redemption looming, Eoin Morgan’s squad are faced with a five-match series against a wounded West Indies.
Another chastening Ashes tour made for miserable overnight viewing for England supporters, but the upcoming series should provide welcome respite as a fearless touring party look to play the only way they know how: attack.
Morgan will lead a group containing 11 of the squad who reached the World Cup semi-final in November, plus three previously uncapped players in Gloucestershire’s David Payne, Sussex’s George Garton and Yorkshire’s Harry Brook.
Sam Billings, drafted in to solve a mounting injury crisis in Hobart, is the only player who featured in the Ashes in a much-changed squad for the five-match Twenty20 tour. Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow and Dawid Malan are all absent.
Destructive batter Liam Livingstone and pace bowler Saqib Mahmood, who could both play a role in the revitalisation of England’s red-ball cricket, are also part of an exciting touring party.
While the Test team endured a disastrous 2021, Morgan will concede that the Twenty20 side didn’t live up to their lofty expectations either.
They bounced back from a 3-2 series defeat in India with home wins over Sri Lanka and Pakistan, but Zealand ended their hopes at the World Cup with a dramatic win in the semi-final in Abu Dhabi.
“I am still offering enough within the side. I absolutely love playing cricket at the moment,” said 35-year-old Morgan after the loss.
How to watch England in West Indies
England’s leading run-scorer and most-capped player in Twenty20 history has plenty of credit in the bank and will lead the group into the rescheduled 2022 World Cup in Australia.
It’s not the first time that Morgan and his white-ball charges have been tasked with lifting the mood of a nation and they signalled their intent with a rousing warm-up win in Barbados ahead of the series.
Jason Roy marked his return to fitness by smashing a 36-ball hundred against a Barbados Cricket Association President’s XI. He eventually fell for 115 off 47 deliveries as England cruised to a commanding 93-run victory.
Their exit from the World Cup came shortly after Roy hobbled off injured earlier in the tournament against South Africa and his presence at the top of the order is a huge boost.
“The calf is 100 per cent, I didn’t even think about it, which was good,” he said. “Strapping the pads on was a very special feeling. Getting runs is a bonus but being able to play again is even better.”
Tom Banton and James Vince also impressed with the bat while Garton, Reece Topley, Adil Rashid and Tymal Mills all starred with the ball.
The first series in a World Cup year will provide valuable preparation and Paul Collingwood, who captained England to their first-ever international trophy at the 2010 World Twenty20, will deputise for Chris Silverwood as head coach for the tour.
Marcus Trescothick has been confirmed as assistant coach, while Essex’s Anthony McGrath, Alan Richardson of Worcestershire and Somerset coach Paul Tweddle complete the new-look coaching unit.
Collingwood said: “We have selected a strong squad with some serious batting power and a balanced attack as we begin preparations ahead of the T20 World Cup in Australia.
“The World Cup is less than a year away and there will be increased opportunities for the squad in the absence of those players who are with the Ashes squad.
“I have good memories winning a World Cup in Barbados and I’m really looking forward to going back there with this squad to face a very good West Indies who will test all aspects of our skills.”
The West Indies, who famously lifted the Twenty20 World Cup in 2016 after beating England in the final, have gone from boom to bust in the shortest format.
Overall, holistically, I think we have a batting problem
- Kieron Pollard
They suffered ignominy in last year’s competition, losing four of their five group-stage matches including a crushing defeat to England in the opening game.
One school of thought is that they are wedded to the myopic idea that Twenty20s are an exercise in six hitting and that they have been overtaken tactically by the likes of England and Australia as a result.
They have also had to manage the transition of a squad that was once filled with global superstars like Chris Gayle and Andre Russell – who has been overlooked for this series.
Their Twenty20 demise has resulted in a lot of soul-searching in the Caribbean and recent results suggest their white-ball malaise isn’t limited to the shortest format.
They suffered a shock 2-1 series defeat to Ireland in the World Super League competition, thoroughly underwhelming with the bat in each game.
Captain Kieron Pollard, who will lead the West Indies against England, said: “overall, holistically, I think we have a batting problem.”
Assessments don’t come much more damning, and it was echoed by head coach Phil Simmons. “It’s there to see: our batting quality is not there,” he said.
“Everything comes from lower down. If you’re coming into our squad and you’re averaging 30s when you come to the top level, you're not going to average 40 or 50.”
Only six of the players who featured in the World Cup were selected for the England series with Pollard and Simmons deciding that the future is very much now.
Youngsters Dominic Drakes, Romario Shepherd and Odean Smith have all been included but the talented Shimron Hetmyer, top scorer at the World Cup, has been left out after failing a fitness test. Highly-rated left-arm seamer Obed McCoy is also unavailable.
Vice-captain Nicholas Pooran will look to shoulder much of the run-scoring responsibility while Brandon King, leading run-scorer in the 2019 Caribbean Premier League, is hoping to establish himself as a reliable performer with the bat.
From the outside, the West Indies look like they are searching for answers after a poor run of form in the white-ball formats.
For an England squad free of any Ashes baggage, it’s an opportunity to restore some pride in the badge and rediscover that winning feeling with another World Cup on the horizon.
Watch the first Twenty20 between West Indies and England from 7.30pm on BT Sport 1HD on Saturday 22 January.