England’s T20 World Cup squad: 20-something v 30-something head-to-heads

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6 minute read

To misquote Ferris Bueller for the Nth time: T20 moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you risk being a cricket website that thinks Joe Root’s still in the England squad.

Actually, that mangled quote isn’t even true. T20 doesn’t in fact move that fast at all. England’s 2016 T20 World Cup squad also featured Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, Chris Jordan, Reece Topley and Adil Rashid, while Chris Jordan played in the one before that.

What actually happens is that T20 moves along at a fairly normal pace, but many of us only properly check in with the format when there’s a World Cup on, so we miss rather a lot between times. (To be fair to those of us guilty of this, there is a World Cup pretty much every year, so we don’t miss that much. Earlier this week, a friend said to us that he’d seen a headline where Jos Buttler was saying England’s pride had been dented by their poor World Cup defence and he immediately concluded that he must have missed another T20 World Cup.)

Let’s try that Ferris Bueller quote again…

T20 moves along steadily but relentlessly. If you don’t stop and have a think about the England squad once in a while, you risk thinking that the older, more familiar players are still the most important ones.

Let’s have some head-to-heads pitting those gnarly old 30-somethings against their fresh-faced 20-something team-mates. Who’s better, the bairns or the old fossils?

Jos Buttler v Phil Salt

The temptation here is to conclude that Jos Buttler is England’s greatest short format batter, so obviously he’s the better of the two. But then you remember that Nick Knight was for a long time considered a shoo-in for an all-time England XI in 50-over cricket, so the world can change even when the player doesn’t.

We have to say, we miss old Buttler a bit – which is to say we miss young Buttler. New Buttler – which is to say old Buttler – makes more hundreds, but he does it by batting at the top of the order and playing fairly normally when it always seemed to us that his superpowers became most apparent when he was really working to a deadline from down the order. Man alive, those wrists!

Illustrating his shift in approach and output, Buttler hit two unbeaten hundreds and zero fifties at this year’s IPL.

Opening the batting and maybe or maybe not keeping wicket, Phil Salt can at times come across as a sort of Buttler Lite (I Can’t Believe It’s Not Buttler, perhaps). He is a smashing T20 player in his own right though.

Salt puts an attractively low price on his wicket, delivering the kind of selfless walloping that – even when it doesn’t fully come off – can still be the difference between victory and defeat in a tight format where the loss of wickets is rarely too significant an issue.

Four fifties and zero hundreds at this year’s IPL contrasts with Buttler’s output, even before you factor in his significantly higher strike-rate (182.00 v 140.78), yet he has also served up two T20 hundreds for England in the Caribbean in the last six months, which feels like handy prep for a World Cup in the Caribbean.

Verdict: Salt appears to have the capacity to oustrip Buttler these days, but the old fella’s got a sufficiently long history of barely-believable nonsense that we’d still have him down as the most important batter.

Jonny Bairstow v Harry Brook

Gun to our head, we would most likely just gibber incomprehensibly, cry a bit and maybe crap our pants – because a gun to the head is no way to get a decent answer out of someone.

But if we had to settle on just one Yorkshire batter whose surname begins with B for England’s T20 World Cup XI, we’d go with Harry Brook, even though this has, thus far, not proven his strongest format. Of the two, he just seems the least constrained by reason and precedent – which is honestly a perfectly mad conclusion really, when you think about it, given who he’s up against.

Maybe it’s just that we can’t shake off the feelings we had when we were writing this piece.

Jonny Bairstow toys with you though. He sort of bounces between formats, excelling at one at a time. In that light, does his fading form in the Tests against India earlier in the year suggest a bit of burnout or a shifting of excellence towards the 20-over game? He’s since made a hundred in the IPL – but that was pretty much all he made.

Verdict: We wouldn’t say either was exactly nailed-on to succeed, so we’re giving it to Brook as a fresher man who tends to turn up to new things armed with immediate silliness.

Moeen Ali v Will Jacks

If you have a problem, if no-one else can help, and if you can find him, maybe you can hire Moeen Ali.

Failing that, try to get hold of Will Jacks.

This isn’t quite accurate. While Moeen’s role in this squad might reasonably be defined as Utility Deluxe, Jacks appears to be building himself a narrower edifice – albeit on top of the same bit-of-everything foundations that have long underpinned the older man’s career.

Jacks’ two Test caps sat squarely on this bits-and-piecesery, but his T20 credentials lean more heavily towards top order batting. He is another to have hit an IPL hundred this year and he has three others to his name at domestic/franchise level on top of that – two more than Moeen.

To contextualise that further, the only England batter in this squad to have hit more T20 hundreds is Buttler. While he has hit twice as many, that’s been in 414 games to Jacks’ 165.

Set against that, Jacks’ England T20 record is so far poor. He has failed to reach 50 in 11 innings.

Verdict: Jacks will improve that record. Moeen will have the odd moment.

Chris Jordan v Jofra Archer

Chris Jordan played in the 2014 T20 World Cup and it feels faintly unbelievable that he is still going. Jofra Archer has barely played cricket in the last few years, so it feels faintly unbelievable that he is around too.

We can’t quite get behind the notion of 29-year-old Archer – more prominent five years ago than he is today – as ‘the next generation’, so we’re going to write this particular head-to-head off as a nonsense.

Verdict: Written off as a nonsense.

Adil Rashid v Tom Hartley

Let’s not muck about. This one goes to Adil Rashid.

Even if Tom Hartley had made his England T20 debut – which he hasn’t – and even if he’d played really well and taken loads of wickets and barely conceded a run – which he hasn’t – then he’s up against a leg-spinner here, and a leg-spinner who is Adil Rashid to boot.

Last time England were in a T20 World Cup final, Adil Rashid bowled a wicket maiden. It was one of the great, spoilsport, stick-in-the-spokes interventions.

Verdict: Adil Rashid, forever and always. The man is irreplaceable.

A final word

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  1. Verdict: Written off as a nonsense

    A lot of things where people give verdicts would be improved by the addition of this as an option.

  2. I thought you might go for a “Salted Buttler v UnSalted Buttler” debate, questioning the merit or demerit of opening with both of those guys.

    But you instead went for “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Buttler” when describing Salt. Your line is much neater.

    There was a lot to enjoy in this piece, KC. Well writ.

      1. I have discovered “press and hold” reveals the hover captions on my mobile device but it’s not as convenient as on desktop. Mostly because of the effort you need to go to just to check whether each image has one or not.

  3. I know you don’t do requests, KC, but the sight of Azam Khan behind the stumps for Pakistan this afternoon has reminded me (and Daisy) that your website has a great tradition of pieces about rotund cricketers. #justsaying #yesalsotosecondsofpudding

  4. I’ve always thought it’s a bit sad that World Cup warm-up matches are almost always umpteen-a-side matches that aren’t official internationals, especially since it’s one of the few occasions when associate sides get to play the full members. You know the matches I mean. To pick a random example from last year’s ODI World Cup warm-ups, Cricinfo’s scorecard dutifully reports “Players per side: Australia 15 (11 batting, 11 fielding); Pakistan 16 (11 batting, 11 fielding)”.

    I was going to say “invariably” but Bangladesh broke the norm this year by testing the US conditions via a 3-match official T20 series against the hosts in Dallas. And the Bangladeshis put out a strong team, which, surprisingly, managed to lose 2-1. That consolation win being in a dead rubber when bizarrely it was the Americans playing a heavily weakened team to give some of the fringe squad members a chance. U-S-A!! U-S-A!!

    However this World Cup warm-up story is one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time:


    The highlight was the note about over-the-hill coaching staff having to take to the field if Australia want a full fielding complement. It’s the struggle to get 11 players together that must be known to local 4th XI organisers the world over, with the possibility of dragging in ageing spectators to field as boundary riders. Simply magnificent stuff from the reigning and six-time (50-over) Champions of the World.

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