Scary vs WI – 2nd T20I

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“Most of our plan today was to bowl Yorkers, use the long side, and we missed, that’s brutally honest”

Two months after England lost a matchless match to New Zealand in the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup, they nearly lost another. When the wheels came off in the final stages of their eventual one-run win against the West Indies in the second T20I in Barbados on Sunday night, a simple conclusion had to be drawn: England have a death bowling problem.

In November, New Zealand needed 57 to win the last four overs in Abu Dhabi, a comparison no batting team in T20 international history had solved. They made it down with a surplus, featuring Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid and Chris Woakes by Jimmy Neesham and Daryl Mitchell.

At Bridgetown, the West Indies left themselves 61 from 18 balls with two wickets in hand after a mid-innings collapse, a total that was achieved only once in the last three overs of a T20 international and never in a chase. They came up two runs short and could have felt rightfully disadvantaged by an umpire’s decision: Akeal Hosein – who hit 44 out of 16 balls, a record for a No. 10 batter – was stunned when he hit a full, wide ball from Saqib Mahmood saw him passed inside the tram lines.
The 59 runs that came from the last three overs were the most joint England conceded at that stage, made nearly 15 years ago by India – and mainly Yuvraj Singh – in Durban. Mahmood seemed to have the same stage fright as Stuart Broad had that night as he missed Yorker after Yorker and was dragged over the short leg line.

Jordan’s over, the 18th, was eerily reminiscent of the 17th in the semi-finals – not least because it took the same number of runs, 23. With one boundary significantly shorter than the other, he planned accordingly and hit the ball into the field at a good length; Hosein (over cover) and Romario Shepherd (twice, over midwicket) responded by carting him across the larger border before six.

For Mahmood, the discrepancy in border sizes again prompted his plan to bowl full and wide outside Hosein’s stump. But after his first ball went as a wide and his second narrowly escaped the same fate, he lost his nerve: Hosein hit consecutive boundaries on either side of the long-on, failed to reach another wide, then hit three sixes to leave the West Indies with two. overshoot their target.

“Every team in the world is trying to get better at it,” said England captain Eoin Morgan. “It’s the hardest course in T20 cricket, death bowling. The conditions got a little better towards the end – the ball slipped unlike our innings in the first innings – but in the end we have to find better ways. Our execution was long not as good as we’d like.”

The inevitable question was asked: why aren’t England trying to bowl yorkers? “We are, we’re just getting it wrong,” admitted Morgan. “Most of our plan today was to bowl Yorkers, use the long side, and we missed. That’s brutally honest. The guys are always honest with the execution to try and move on [and to] identify areas where we can get better – this is definitely one of them.

“They’re games you want to play in. Looking back at the build in the” [2021] World Cup we didn’t play a lot of tight matches to work on our death-hitting and our death bowling, so today is a good example of that. The more experience, hopefully, the better we’ll get at performing.”

“It’s the hardest course in T20 cricket, death bowling.”

Eoin Morgan

The only bowler to escape with both figures and dignity intact was Reece Topley – ironically, playing his first T20 international since being hammered to death by JP Duminy in the 2016 World Cup. He too used the dimensions in his plans, hanging the ball wide outside Shepherd’s strike arc with a short leg-side boundary and tipping the ball into the left-handed Hosein’s pads. Crucially, his execution was significantly better, in keeping with a fine return to the side: he took 1 for 18 in his four overs, dropped Nicholas Pooran and got an athletic runout from his own bowling.

One of the men in charge of post-match analysis at BT Sport’s studio, Tom Curran, was in a better position than most to talk about England’s trials and tribulations as he fell into the pecking order after a few rough nights at death. had failed – although he would have played in this series, but suffered a stress fracture in the Big Bash League.

“It was interesting to hear Morgs say they were all going for the Yorkers,” he said. “I think we’ve talked a lot over the past year about the value of hard, heavy balls in death.

Yorkers are funny. You can get the hang of them in practice, but when you get to the middle it’s hard to describe – it’s really a ‘feel’ for a bowler. You can find one early in your spell and get your radar; other days you’ll have a hard time.”

In the long run, the Hundred should help England’s deathbowling depths by exposing young sailors to difficult situations at the end of an inning. But in the first season, three of the top five regular death bowlers were overseas recruits (Adam Milne, Lockie Ferguson and Marchant de Lange) and the two domestic players (Jordan and Tymal Mills) are already in England.

It should come as a comfort to England that their first-choice death bowlers, Mills and Jofra Archer, were spectators only in Barbados due to rotation and injury respectively, and as Mitchell Starc and Shaheen Shah Afridi showed in the other World Cup semi-final, even the best can have a night.

But this was still a chastisement for Jordan and Mahmood. Morgan often says he wants England to be ruthless in white-ball cricket; in the past 12 months, their death bowlers have been anything but.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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