England’s T20I cohort return to action for the first time since their victorious World Cup campaign in Australia last November in their first ever 20-over series against Bangladesh.

Jos Buttler’s side are immediately following their 2-1 ODI series victory over the Tigers with three short-form games. Jason Roy, James Vince and Saqib Mahmood have left the squad, being replaced by Ben Duckett and Chris Jordan.

Bangladesh are ranked ninth in the T20I standings, seven places behind second-placed England. Shakib Al Hasan’s side are considered significantly stronger in the one-day format than its 20-over counterpart, but still possess enough talent to pose the world champions a challenge, especially on home turf.

The two sides have met just once before, in the 2021 World Cup. England won convincingly, chasing down 124-9 in less than 15 overs.

Thursday’s first T20I tees off in Chittagong, before the second and third matches in Mirpur, a province of Dhaka, on 12 and 14 March. All three games begin at 9am BST.

Here’s what to look out for across the series.

More from Cricket

England’s 2024 World Cup cycle begins

Last September’s high-performance review of English men’s cricket explained that the ECB expect their sides’ primary focus to be winning World Cups and major Test series. In many ways, this series signals the cutting of the rope on England’s 2024 World Cup campaign – everything between now and then will be geared to retaining that trophy.

As they did in the build-up to the 2022 tournament, Buttler and coach Matthew Mott will constantly tinker with an ever-changing side. England’s captain said recently he believes his side had never played their perceived best XI ahead of their World Cup campaign. This gives them the flexibility to know their wider player pool inside out and cater for a constantly increasing and altering injury list.

Of course, the review also mentioned that they expect England to lead the world rankings in one format and be in the top three in the others within five years. This has only been the case for eight months since April 2000, so while results in bilateral series like this one are not completely futile to Buttler’s boys, they will be willing to experiment for the greater good. Results matter, but not as much as silverware.

This is what prompted Bangladesh coach Chandika Hathurusingha to call this an “experimental” England side, saying “they are systematically building the team towards [the World Cup].”

Yet Mott admitted that this series is “probably more geared towards the ODI World Cup”, which takes place in India this October. This will be England’s last chance to practice on the subcontinent, although some of their stars will play in the Indian Premier League (IPL) next month.

Buttler short on batting options

England’s wild experimentation is probably overstated slightly ahead of this particular series, especially with the bat, as England’s top four is heavily limited by injury and the financial lure of franchise tournaments.

Of the eleven who started November’s final against Pakistan, young phenom Harry Brook and Test captain Ben Stokes are resting before they fulfil their gargantuan IPL contracts next months. Big hitter Liam Livingstone is injured, while reborn opener Alex Hales chose to play in the more lucrative Pakistan Super League (PSL).

Just outside the core squad, Will Jacks’ role as the top run-scorer in the inaugural SA20 (270 runs in seven innings, averaging 39.75) would probably have earned him a spot before his thigh injury, and he was already a replacement for uncapped Somerset right-hander Tom Abell.

This leaves a locked-in top four of Buttler, Phil Salt, Dawid Malan and Ben Duckett, which is unlikely to change throughout the three games.

Duckett is fresh from successfully opening for England’s Test side in New Zealand and these will be his first T20Is against a side other than Pakistan. He played all seven games of the pre-World Cup series in Karachi and Lahore, having made his only other appearance against the Shaheens in Cardiff back in May 2019. Of course, Duckett’s record in that seven-match run was fantastic, averaging 46.6 with a strike rate of 158.2, so it is hoped he can continue his excellent T20 form on the subcontinent.

MIRPUR, BANGLADESH - MARCH 03: Phil Salt of England bats as Mushfiqur Rahim keeps wicket during the 2nd One Day International match between Bangladesh and England at Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium on March 03, 2023 in Mirpur, Bangladesh. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
Phil Salt struggled to take full advantage of his stint in the one-day side (Photo: Getty)

Malan and Buttler pick themselves as designated anchor and captain/wicketkeeper, which just leaves Salt.

Up to this point, the Lancashire bat has threatened brilliance but mostly delivered mediocrity for his country. His 88 not out in the sixth match of that pre-World Cup Pakistan series was impressive, as was his 57 off 24 balls on debut in Bridgetown last January.

Yet he maintains a disappointing habit of following bright starts with stupid decisions. He threw away his big chance to make England’s ODI World Cup squad, cheaply cutting to cover having made 35 off 25 balls in the final ODI on Monday.

With Hales in Pakistan and Jacks on the doctor’s table, this is a brilliant chance for Salt to prove his worth in the national set-up and stake a long-term case to open alongside his captain.

Full-strength bowling attack for the first time

While the batting line-up is down to the bare bones, having Jofra Archer, Mark Wood, Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan and Reece Topley simultaneously available is like stumbling upon a four-leaf clover on Saturn. It’s not supposed to happen. They’re too breakable, too hard on their own bodies, too susceptible to tripping over advertising hoardings.

Yet here we are, less than 24 hours from the first T20I, and they’re all in working order. Add in IPL record signing and World Cup player of the tournament Sam Curran’s weird and wonderful world of variations, the master and padawan of English leg-spin in Adil Rashid and Rehan Ahmed and Moeen Ali for good luck, and this is an unparalleled bowling attack. Rashid and Curran are ranked third and fifth in the T20I rankings, while Topley is 22nd despite missing the World Cup. Wood and Woakes in 26th and 27th make England the only nation to have five bowlers in the current top 30.

Mott is unlikely to select the same bowling attack game-on-game, but knowing that he can call on seven options with the ball at any one time will be a huge comfort. This will be the Australian’s first time being able to call on the mercurial Archer in this format, but the Bajan-born quick managed combined figures of 5-72 in his last two ODIs.

Ahmed’s eventual selection will make him the youngest English debutant across all three formats after the Leicestershire 18-year-old took a wicket with his final ball on his ODI debut on Monday.

England T20I squad in Bangladesh

Jos Buttler (c & wk), Phil Salt (wk), Jofra Archer, Mark Wood, Dawid Malan, Moeen Ali, Sam Curran, Ben Duckett, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid, Rehan Ahmed, Reece Topley, Chris Woakes

Bangladesh look to hit big

The Tigers have apparently been practising their power hitting ahead of the first T20I, training with a game where the batter has to hit a six to stay on.

Bangladesh have traditionally struggled to produce physically strong players, with coach Hathurusingha calling power “a big factor”. Of course, they can call upon the top-ranked T20I all-rounder in captain Shakib Al Hasan and explosive opener Litton Das, but their middle order does not pack the same punch as bigger sides.

This may contribute to their wider issue with wristspin, both failing to produce top leggies and also struggling to play against it. Rashid picked up eight wickets across the three ODIs and this seems to be an issue exacerbated in the 20-over game, where fellow legspinners Rashid Khan, Adam Zampa and Kuldeep Yadav have ripped through their attack in recent years.

Al Hasan was the strongest Bangladeshi bat by some distance in the ODIs, managing 58 and 75 in the final two games and their dependence on him with bat and ball is clear. Whether their new-look squad can get anything from this series is a long shot, with a significant disparity between their ODI and T20I sides still evident.

By admin