England’s ten-wicket win over India in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup semi-final was a high point of the team’s tournament and the best performance so far of Jos Buttler’s captaincy tenure.
To beat the world’s top-ranked Men’s T20I team in such an emphatic manner is a huge statement from England ahead of Sunday’s final against Pakistan.
Buttler and his opening partner Alex Hales will rightly take the headlines after their record-breaking opening stand.
But there is more to producing a performance of such dominance than it just being a great day out for two batters.
Sticking with a batting-heavy approach
There is no one way to approach T20I selection, but leaning into a squad’s strength is almost always the best policy. For some teams that means picking a bowling-heavy XI and trying to always get to a competitive score with the bat.
But England’s strength is with the bat, and they made a big call to name just four front-line bowlers in their side throughout the World Cup, going against the pattern used for much of the previous six months.
Having seven genuine batters and then three all-rounders in Sam Curran, Chris Woakes and Chris Jordan, meant England batted right down to number ten against India. And even last-man-in Adil Rashid can play.
That strength in depth gives top-order players the confidence to take risks, and the aggression from Hales and Buttler in the opening overs suggested they had total faith in the rest of the team if their powerplay gamble didn’t pay off.
“We always want to start as fast as we can and aggressive,” Buttler said.
“Adil Rashid was down at No. 11 today, and that gives us the freedom to come out aggressive, that depth.
“It’s our best performance so far in the tournament, and to do it on a day like today is incredibly satisfying. You couldn’t ask for a better run-chase. With such a long batting line-up it gives you a lot of freedom to play.”
Making the right call at the toss
England have looked better batting first throughout this tournament, but Buttler opted to chase after winning the toss.
In doing so he put the onus on India to set the tempo, and a slow first half to the Indian innings ultimately proved pivotal.
“I ummed and aahed over the toss for a long while actually, what I’d do if I won it. Gut feel said to chase today.
“Against India I feel they’re a bit more dangerous when they know what to do. It worked today, it might not work another time.”
Not letting injuries throw England off course
Losing the team’s top-ranked batter and obvious strike bowler in a double-injury blow could have muddled England’s selection thinking.
But Buttler and his coaches stuck to their guns. In came Phil Salt as a direct replacement for Dawid Malan, resisting the urge to stick to a bowling-heavy approach. Salt barely featured with the bat, but his presence maintained the batting depth that gave the openers confidence to attack.
And, coming in for Mark Wood, Chris Jordan delivered well under tricky circumstances with the ball.
“To bring in Chris Jordan, someone who’s been a mainstay of the team for a long time, adds huge experience. I thought the dimensions of this ground suited his game more than someone like David Willey.
“I don’t think CJ was thanking me too much for bowling him three overs straight through at the death though. To come in your first game of the tournament and bowl at Hardik at that stage of the game I thought was an incredible effort.”
Standing by Adil Rashid
England’s premier spinner struggled through the group stage, not taking a wicket until the final match against Sri Lanka.
But Adil Rashid has been a permanent presence in England’s white-ball bowling attack for a reason, and the leg-spinner showed his class with wonderful returns of 1/20 off his four overs, restricting India at precisely the moment they were looking to kick on.
“I thought Adil was outstanding today,” Buttler said.
“He bowled the best I’ve seen him bowl for a long while. We had to get those guys out and I thought he was the best chance to do that.
"To pick up the key wicket of Suryakumar Yadav – it’s such a huge performance from Dilly today.”
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