Cricket Expert & Columnist
T20 World Cup: England to be feared in any conditions, says Mike Atherton
Seamers are enjoying success bowling back-of-a-length in the United Arab Emirates and spinners Moeen Ali and Liam Livingstone are executing captain Eoin Morgan's fifth-bowler plans to perfection in early stages of T20 World Cup Super 12
Last Updated: 28/10/21 9:37am
England's well-drilled attack combined with their array of potent batters and inspiring skipper makes them a Twenty20 side to be feared in any conditions, says Mike Atherton.
Eoin Morgan's men crushed Bangladesh by eight wickets in the second Super 12 match of their ICC T20 World Cup campaign, chasing down a target of 125 in just 14.1 overs as Jason Roy struck 61 off 38 balls.
But the platform for victory was set up by the bowlers with Moeen Ali's early double strike in the powerplay unsettling Bangladesh before fellow all-rounder Liam Livingstone (2-15) bagged the crucial scalps of Mushfiqur Rahim (29) and Mahmudullah.
Tymal Mills (3-27) also impressed, ending the innings with wickets from successive deliveries as Bangladesh staggered to 124-9 before wilting against Roy's onslaught despite the oppressive heat in Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium.
"It's too easy for England right now," said Atherton. "They've breezed past West Indies and Bangladesh and now their net run-rate is absolutely fantastic and they have points in the bag. They look one of the form teams.
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"England are feared now in a way that they weren't say four or five years ago in one-day cricket - in any conditions, not just at home, including these conditions which were once regarded as quite alien.
"The bowlers look well-drilled. Morgan knows exactly what he's about. He's got a clear plan but of course in T20 cricket that can go out of the window.
"What's been nice for Morgan so far is that the way that he's pre-planned it in his mind is how it has actually worked out perfectly for him: get rid of Moeen Ali's overs early in the powerplay and take wickets too, which allows Tymal Mills to come on in the middle and the end of the innings, and Adil Rashid can bowl at right-handers. In each game so far, it has worked to perfection.
"I'm pleased that Jason Roy got runs today because he'll have a critical role to play; he's the one who usually comes out of the blocks the quickest out of him and Buttler.
"But, of course, it may not always be so easy to do that in the UAE because he doesn't play spin as well as seam - but he's been working really hard on that part of his game - in particular the balls that turn away from him, so it's good to see him in some kind of touch."
England went into the tournament ranked as the number one T20 side in the world but shorn of the services of two of their premier players - paceman Jofra Archer ruled out by an elbow injury and Ben Stokes missing on account of a finger injury, the all-rounder also taking some time away from the game to prioritise his mental health.
The duo's absence means the onus of the fifth bowling option has fallen on Ali and Livingstone and Atherton says the spinners have risen to the occasion.
"The balance of the team - which is batting heavy, which I agree with - means they have to share the fifth bowler overs between Livingstone and Ali," reflected Atherton.
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"They've been lucky so far, if you want to use that term, that everything has gone so well for Moeen Ali. That aspect of England's game, the fifth bowler which I'd suppose you'd say is the one area of weakness, hasn't been tested yet.
"Livingstone came on today and did pretty well in the middle overs and he's going to have to bowl more if the pitches spin and one or two of the other bowlers find themselves under pressure.
"Generally, England's way in one-day cricket whether it is 50-over or 20-over, has been to back their batting to score more than the opposition, and I think that's where they are still most comfortable.
"Obviously the lack of Archer and Stokes puts a spotlight on that balance and that strategy and teams may well look at that and think 'this may be an area that we can have a crack at England'."
England's seamers enjoyed success bowling back-of-a-length against Bangladesh and - according to CricViz - are currently bowling shorter than any other team in the tournament.
England have bowled very short in this World Cup so far. The seamers have pitched shorter than 8m from the batting stumps with 57% of their deliveries - more than any other team in the tournament. #T20WorldCup #ENGvBAN @IGcom pic.twitter.com/HrWHtQhnHc— The CricViz Analyst (@cricvizanalyst) October 27, 2021
Atherton's fellow Sky Sports pundit, Nasser Hussain, said the success of the tactic was testament to the quality of England's preparations.
"The key to England's success is the planning - Mills spoke in the last game about bowling back of a length and heavy lengths and we showed a pitch map comparing the last World Cup to this one and they are bowling two metres shorter!
"England have really gone for heavy lengths; their planning is brilliant, their bowling as a unit is brilliant - and the fielding has been too.
"Then they are ruthless with the bat. Jason Roy, when you are chasing a low score, is the perfect man as he wants to play his shots regardless.
"The only negative is that they've been so good that some of the guys in the middle-order like Morgan and Livingstone haven't had the time in the middle."
England's next Super 12 match takes place on Saturday, when they take on Australia - live on Sky Sports Cricket from 2.30pm.