Throughout this article, I look at how England's t20 side needs some work to improve their chances of winning the World Cup later this year. Despite being number one in the world, and having recently trounced Sri Lanka, Morgan's XI has weaknesses, and better players ought to be picked, and certain changes have to be made.
1. Play Tymal Mills
England's t20 side is built around scoring more than the opposition. Well, all sides are, but England focus on batting as deep as possible, looking to reach 200, not defend 160. This means bowlers are picked because they can also bat, not necessarily being the best out and out with the ball.
This leads to a weak bowling attack.
A documented factor was the powerplay bowling, with wickets rare heading into the 2020 summer. While Jofra Archer and Mark Wood helped to fix this, England are still lacking at the death, with Chris Jordan's dwindling form of concern.
England, therefore, should go back to Tymal Mills. The 28 year old left-arm quick has a back condition that means he can only play t20, and he's therefore been able to carefully hone his craft. With his mix of slower balls and pacey bouncers, he has an impressive record at the death, and is arguably second to only Archer in the UK.
While most of his stats do come from the Blast, which isn't the highest standard of t20 leagues, an economy rate of just 7.82 in his 128 t20s is remarkable, especially for someone who bowls top and tail (in the powerplay, and at the death, where run rates are higher). Mills also plays for Sussex, whose home ground Hove has small boundaries, making the stats even more impressive.
Mills offers nothing with the bat, but ought to be selected for England's side based on his death bowling alone, and having him would give England a reliable partner at the end of the innings for Archer.
In his five IPL games, Mills bowled 7 overs between 15-20, going at 8.4 an over, taking two wickets. Given the small sample size, this is pretty respectable. Contracted to the Southern Brave in The Hundred, and with some high quality international players that he'll bowl to, hopefully it demonstrates his skills at a higher level.
2. Bring Back Moeen Ali
England's use of Moeen Ali in the past few years has been awful.
Moeen is a batter, who bowls some part offies. In his t20 career, he predominantly bats at three. But for England in T20Is, he's batted at six or lower for 19 of his 32 innings, having last been at three (or even four) in 2015!
England ought to bat him at three, and let him go out and play with freedom, like he's done so well for the Worcestershire Rapids, and as MS Dhoni did with him at the Chennai Super Kings.
His stats back this up as well. He averages just 16.62 at 133.89 in his T20Is.
But, across his 168 t20s, his average and strike-rate are 25.04 and 141.03, with an impressive boundary percentage at 20.3%. This record is very good, since he debuted when rates were expected to be slower, in 2007.
In the 2021 IPL, with a small sample size of just six games, Mo averaged 34.33, striking at 157.25, with a brilliant boundary percentage of 26%.
His overall IPL record is just as good, with 25 games (not all at three either), with a 24.52 average, striking at 157.97, and a very good rate of 24% of balls going to the boundary.
You'll have noticed that I haven't mentioned Mo's bowling. I think he's a decent offie, who will do well on turning tracks, but, unlike England, I'm not picking him for his bowling. I'm picking him, because, at his best, he is a destructive t20 bat, who scores rapidly.
3. Open with Ben Stokes
Stokes in England's t20 side is a conundrum. His record in T20Is is poor, averaging 20.09, and striking at 136.84, with a boundary percentage of 16.7%. In all t20s, he averages about 5 more, but with a similar strike-rate and boundary percentage.
However, he has the ability to win games with the bat. Take, for instance, his 107* from 60 balls against the Mumbai Indians, to help the Rajasthan Royals chase down 196 in the 2020 IPL. The knock included taking 30 from 15 balls in the powerplay, the rate needed for an opener.
Given Stokes' troubles down the order for England (in 11 innings batting at six for England, Stokes averages just 10.9, striking at just 126.74), it makes sense for him to get in early.
However, a lot of this poor record is down to how early Stokes started his T20I career. In eight innings in 2020 and 2021, he made 210 runs, striking at 144.83. This ought to demonstrate that Stokes does have the ability, even if his stats are not yet impressive.
And Stokes can play t20 cricket well. He was MVP in the 2017 IPL. Opening the batting, where he is most suited to playing, and with more games, he'd aid England's side.
His record may not be great, but he is Ben Stokes. In the first three years of his Test career, he averaged just 27.72 with the bat. But in the most recent three years, that's 45. It was in his 46th ODI, when he hit his maiden century in the format.
It takes players a while to achieve their potential, and Stokes has batted just 28 times for England in t20s. Backing him, and having him open the batting, is the right thing for England's t20 side, as Stokes will come good.
4. Get A Lower Order Hitter
With me moving Stokes and Mo up the order, England need another lower order batter. And given Eoin Morgan's drop-off in form, after he went from scoring 544 runs at a rate of 170 in 2019 and 2020, to just 45 runs at 109.75 in 2021, a back-up for him is definitely needed, as ATC alluded to in this piece.
The current candidates in the squad are Liam Livingstone and Sam Billings, who both played in the recent series v Sri Lanka.
Livingstone is a monster hitter through the legside, with experience across the globe in his 136 t20s, and a good strike-rate of 140.17. However, most of his experience has come opening the batting, and so, should he hope to break into this side at 5 or 6, he'll need more experience down the order.
Billings has 32 T20Is under his belt, with a mediocre record. In all t20s, he averages 23.5 with a 129.9 strike-rate, and also has lots of global experience from his 191 games. However, he is more of an anchor than hitter, which isn't needed at five or six.
Ideally, Morgan's form returns for England, which would be a massive boost. And maybe Livingstone, for the Birmingham Phoenix may bat down the order in The Hundred, especially since they also have top order batters Moeen Ali, Kane Williamson, Daniel Bell-Drummond and Tom Abell, so it's likely he'll have that chance.
Whatever happens with Livingstone and Morgan, England need to find someone to take on one of the spots hammering it in the lower order, as the batting line-up, will great at the top, lacks the support to make big scores without it.
Who will be the Hardik, the Pollard or the Russell?
You may have noted that I'm opening with Stokes and batting Mo at three. And yes, that does mean I've dropped Jason Roy and Dawid Malan.
Roy's form has been on a slight decline. Since the start of 2020, he has played 13 T20Is, and has had a decent average of 26.5. However, he has had a strike-rate of 135.4, which is not good enough given he bats in the powerplay.
It's a definite drop off as well, he made 743 runs from the first 32 games of his career, averaging 23.2, but striking better at 142.3.
And I've always had questions over Malan, which you can read about here and here. His method of starting slow and then going big later on does not work in this side, and his record on slower pitches is of concern, with a World Cup to come in the UAE.
Furthermore, his general stats in t20 are so much lower than his T20I stats, which suggests decline will occur. I haven't seen anything to change that view, that he should not be in the side.
Roughly my new side for England in T20Is would be:
J. Buttler (wk)
E. Morgan (c)
S. Curran/C. Woakes/D. Willey