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T20 World Cup: Failure not an option for England after 50-over shambles but defending champions look strong

After England's dismal 50-over World Cup title defence last year, Jos Buttler and Matthew Mott can ill-afford another poor showing at T20 World Cup; 2022 winners look strong with power-packed batting and Jofra Archer fit again - England vs Scotland, 3.30pm Tuesday, Sky Sports Cricket

England T20 World Cup image

As World Cup title defences go, it could not really have turned out any worse.

England's 50-over shambles in India last autumn was up there with France's defence of the Football World Cup in 2002 when Les Blues were dumped out in the first round without scoring a goal.

The England cricket team's 2023 World Cup was full of goals - own goals. It felt like they were consistently booting balls into their own net in some perverse and unconscious act of self-sabotage.

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Captain Jos Buttler says England have learnt from their harrowing 50-over World Cup title defence in India last year

Selection confusion reigned ahead of the competition with Jason Roy in the squad and then out and Harry Brook out and then in.

Some mind-frazzling decisions were made during the event. The call to bowl first against South Africa in a sweltering Mumbai still induces shudders when you think about it.

There was also the saga of it becoming public knowledge all-rounder David Willey would not be awarded a new central contract despite him being in the XI and one of the few players performing.

Error after error and defeat after defeat.

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Watch the 2024 Men's T20 World Cup live on Sky Sports, culminating with the final in Barbados on June 29

Six losses in their first seven games ended England's tournament in the group phase and they needed to win their last two matches just to avoid the ignominy of missing out on the 2025 ICC Champions Trophy in Pakistan. It was scant consolation in the end.

Not all of the missteps should be blamed squarely on coach Matthew Mott and captain Jos Buttler and the T20 World Cup win in Australia in 2022 meant that the duo had credit in the bank.

But if England endure another poor global tournament, this time in the West Indies at the T20 World Cup - their first game is against Scotland in Barbados on Tuesday from 3.30pm UK - then it is hard to see Mott and Buttler keeping their jobs.

England's T20 World Cup fixtures

  • vs Scotland (Barbados) - Tuesday June 4 (3.30pm)
  • vs Australia (Barbados) - Saturday June 8 (6pm)
  • vs Oman (Antigua) - Thursday June 13 (8pm)
  • vs Namibia (Antigua) - Saturday June 15 (6pm)

With the playing resources at their disposal, failure - which probably equates to anything less than the semi-finals - is not an option.

In a summer where decisions will be made on the leadership of the country moving forward (the date of July 4 rings a bell...) Mott and Buttler require a strong campaign.

There's every reason to suggest they will enjoy one after a reasonable build-up in their local constituency with two T20 warm-up victories over Pakistan, the second of those in thumping style.

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Former England captain Eoin Morgan says there could be changes in the leadership group if the side struggle at the T20 World Cup

Power-packed batting and a fit-again Archer

That wasn't always the view, mind you.

After two washouts across the first three games of the four-match series against Pakistan and the final fixture at The Kia Oval under threat due to a sudden deluge, the wisdom of hauling players back from the IPL to watch it rain was called into question.

It turned out okay in the end. The precipitation passed. Mark Wood bowled fast. Adil Rashid bowled beautifully. Buttler and Phil Salt smashed boundaries. England won at a canter in the capital.

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Michael Atherton says England should be considered one of the favourites to win the T20 World Cup

Over the course of that match and the second T20 at Edgbaston, every key player got runs on the board or overs under their belt.

This build-up feels different to 2023. Better. Smoother. Calmer. While T20 cricket is often a vehicle for chaos, England head into this World Cup with a sense of tranquillity, knowing who they are going to play and how they are going to play.

The top seven picks itself: Buttler - who is arguably the best white-ball batter in the world - Salt, Will Jacks, Jonny Bairstow, a leaner Harry Brook, Moeen Ali and Liam Livingstone, with the first four on that list fresh from a star turn or more in the IPL.

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Virat Kohli watched on from the other end in amazement as England's Will Jacks hit a 41-ball century for Royal Challengers Bengaluru in the IPL.

Buttler crunched two tons. Bairstow and Jacks one each. Salt hit over 400 runs and four fifties for Kolkata Knight Riders. Spare batter Ben Duckett will only infiltrate that group in the event of an injury or if England want another left-hander at any point, besides Moeen.

Livingstone, Rashid and Moeen will provide the spin bowling, while the seam attack is bolstered by the fit-again Jofra Archer. He makes such a difference, brings a new dimension. Pace, presence, variations, death bowling. The whole shebang.

England have the option of pairing him and fellow speedster Wood in the same XI, a tantalising prospect, but former captain Eoin Morgan said - admittedly before Wood's fiery spell at The Kia Oval last Thursday - that he would not go that way against Scotland in Bridgetown on Tuesday.

He picked Reece Topley to join Barbados-born pair Archer and Chris Jordan, owing to Topley's extra height.

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Sky Sports pundit Morgan picks his England team to face Scotland in their first T20 World Cup game in Barbados on Tuesday

Jordan is worth a mention, too.

This writer, stupidly, did not even consider him as an option for the World Cup after he was omitted from December's T20 tour of the West Indies but the 35-year-old is back now, providing bucket hands and astonishing athleticism in the deep and death-bowling nous.

Jordan, who likely saw a place in the squad open up following fellow Surrey all-rounder Jamie Overton's untimely stress fracture of the back, also adds lower-order hitting. With him and Archer down the line-up England's batting is deeper than a skinflint's pockets.

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Check out Chris Jordan's stunning catch against Pakistan from all angles as he pulled off a blinder at The Kia Ova in the final T20

Add in England's recent experience of Caribbean conditions from the pre-Christmas tour, one in which Salt cemented his place with successive centuries; former West Indies captain Kieron Pollard's presence on the coaching staff; and the fact their initial group, save for Australia, could have been tougher, and confidence should be high.

How big a miss will Stokes prove for England?

So, what could go wrong?

Well, we need to see how England react if they suffer an early stutter - they were awful at that in India last year - plus how they deal with potentially stodgy surfaces.

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Michael Atherton and Nasser Hussain believe Ben Stokes missing the T20 World Cup to focus on the County Championship is the right decision for him.

Ben Stokes is the master of assessing a situation, working out how to complete chases in sticky situations, often on sticky pitches.

We only need to rewind to the 2019 50-over World Cup final at Lord's and the 2022 T20 World Cup final at the MCG to see that. He also saw England to a jittery victory over Sri Lanka in the early rounds in Australia two years ago when elimination was a real danger.

But Stokes is not here this time as he focuses on getting back to full all-rounder status after knee surgery. The Test captain could be a monumental miss if games get tight.

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Watch highlights from the 2022 T20 World Cup final as England beat Pakistan by five wickets at the MCG

Archer, Wood and Topley also do not have stellar injury records and one of their potential replacements, Sam Curran, is in nowhere near the sort of form he was in two years ago when he was named Player of the T20 World Cup and Player of the Match in the final against Pakistan after bagging 3-12 from four overs.

All told, though, England's strengths appear to outweigh their weaknesses.

Even in a tournament as volatile as the T20 World Cup, which tends not to follow rankings and recent form in the way the 50-over World Cup does, Buttler's side should be seen as one of the favourites, alongside India and perennial tournament winners Australia.

Success is achievable. And for Buttler and Mott, failure is not an option.

England begin their T20 World Cup title defence against Scotland in Barbados on Tuesday (3.30pm first ball) with Ireland playing India in New York on Wednesday (also 3.30pm).

Watch every match from the Men's T20 World Cup live on Sky Sports between now and June 29. Stream-contract free with NOW.

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