England have stumbled across their best XI – Harry Brook must bat higher up order

england have stumbled across their best xi – harry brook must bat higher up order

Harry Brook was man of the match against Namibia - Getty Images/ Gareth Copley

The rain in Antigua gave Jos Buttler palpitations as he sweated over elimination but on the upside it provided him with the chance to stumble across his best team for the rest of the T20 World Cup.

England intended to go into the match against Namibia with the same XI that obliterated Oman but when the rain shortened the match to 11 overs per side (it became 10 after another shower) it forced them into a rethink.

Will Jacks was dropped for the extra bowling option in Sam Curran and everyone shifted up the order. Harry Brook and Jonny Bairstow responded well to the extra responsibility, combining in a 50-run stand that set a total way beyond Namibia and ultimately sent England to the Super Eight.

They still had to suffer agonies watching the Australia-Scotland game from their hotel, some in their rooms, others in the bar. That match did not finish until midnight as the minnows came close to a major upset that would have sent England home. Australia dropped six catches to set the conspiracy theorists off and running in what was a patchy performance by a team that has not lost to an associate for more than 40 years. In the end Scotland ran out of puff, Australia winning by five wickets thanks to some late hitting by Travis Head and Marcus Stoinis.

So England squeezed through on run rate and flew from Antigua to St Lucia on Sunday still in with a chance of defending their World Cup crown. “We’re pleased to go through,” said Buttler. “We’re looking forward to the Super Eight and getting into the tournament. It was a nervous watch at times [the Scotland match] but thankfully we can now prepare for a big week of crucial matches in St Lucia and Barbados against strong opposition.”

england have stumbled across their best xi – harry brook must bat higher up order

Jos Buttler and Sam Curran (right) enjoy the end of their tense win over Namibia - AP/Ricardo Mazalan

Curran can hit sixes from ball one and as a left-hander will be useful against the West Indies spinners on Wednesday night at a ground where the wind had a big impact on the game between Scotland and Australia. He also gives another left-arm swing or pace-off option, which could be valuable on the slow pitches of the Caribbean where the tournament will now play out (there are no more games in the United States) with England facing three Super Eight matches in five days from Wednesday.

As an all-rounder, Curran also makes it less vital to pick Chris Jordan for his batting at No 8. Slot Mark Wood in for Jordan against West Indies in St Lucia on a pitch where in 2019 he rebooted his Test career with one of the fastest-ever spells by an England bowler, and suddenly this looks a much stronger England side.

Jacks has not had much of a chance after arriving at the World Cup with his profile high thanks to a good Indian Premier League but in the Australia match he clogged up the innings at No 3 and appeared to be struggling with the slower pace.

His absence allowed Brook to bat at No 4 and face more balls. He seized his chance with his best World Cup innings for England. Batting at five wasted this natural ball-striker’s talent, allowing him time to face more balls makes sense. While Bairstow was pugnacious and relied on his hitting ability, Brook played some sumptuous shots in his 47 from 20 balls to be named man of the match.

‘He wants to be the match-winner, wants pressure’

The best was a flat six over extra cover but his ramps and reverses against pace and spin make him a hard batsman for captains to defend against. He is an excellent player of spin and Buttler acknowledged predictions of a slugfest have not materialised with low scores the norm in damp conditions during the wet season.

“He’s a brilliant talent and I think one of the great things is he wants to be the match-winner, he wants that pressure, that’s what he expects from himself,” said Buttler of Brook. “And he hasn’t had much opportunity because of the way the games have been and the wash-outs etc so to come in and play as well as he did in a high-pressure situation and on not a very straightforward wicket was a great hand. He’s very dangerous, wherever he bats. I think he can bat anywhere one to seven, he’s that kind of player.”

One injury worry is Liam Livingstone, who came in and struck two sixes but appeared to hurt his side in the process and did not take the field in the Namibia innings. England will assess him on Monday.

The draw has fallen kindly for England. They are on the opposite side to Australia and India, the two strongest teams, and will finish the Super Eight stage against the United States. Win that match and beat one of either West Indies in front of their home crowd or South Africa, who obliterated England at the 50-over World Cup, and they are in with a great chance of a last-four place. They will have to sharpen their fielding and while Reece Topley has strengthened the attack, it is only against Oman that England have looked potent with the ball.

england have stumbled across their best xi – harry brook must bat higher up order

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