India and England will be best teams at Twenty20 World Cup, says Jonathan Agnew

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When it came down to the decider, England were hit by a magnificent performance from India.

In Twenty20 cricket, the pressure of chasing a target such as 225 means a couple of wickets can destablise even the firmest foundations, and that is what happened to the tourists in Ahmedabad.

The fifth and final match was played on the best pitch we’ve seen since the first Test, and we saw what a difference it makes when batsmen can trust the surface. It was a really good game of cricket.

Virat Kohli’s move to open for India worked well, allowing the shot-players to attack around him. He was then still there to add power at the end.

Rohit Sharma batted beautifully and Suryakumar Yadav is another of these new, confident India players benefiting from the Indian Premier League.

Later, Bhuvneshwar Kumar was outstanding with the ball. To return figures of 2-15 when runs are piling up elsewhere is barely believable.

For England, Chris Jordan pulled off a moment of magic in the field. He once again proved what an outstanding athlete he is with his sprint and one-handed grab to remove Suryakumar. In lobbing the ball to Jason Roy to complete the catch – which I’m not sure he needed to do – it is a travesty he does not get credit on the scorecard.

Dawid Malan played an important innings at a time when he was coming under pressure, but when he and Jos Buttler fell as part of a collapse of four wickets for 12 runs, England slipped into a terminal decline.

Still, there are things for England to take from their 3-2 defeat, with the World Cup in India now only seven months away.

After all the fuss during the Test series over players being rested, it was right that Eoin Morgan always picked his best XI, rather than mixing it up by giving players a game here and a game there.

For England to have been at full throttle throughout makes the chopping and changing during the Test series defeat slightly easier to swallow. It felt as if they were working to a plan.

Even though he was expensive in the final game, Mark Wood had a really good series, showing that pace counts even in a place like India.

The move to have Adil Rashid open the bowling was interesting and worked more often that it didn’t. It can be hard for leg-spinners to grip the shiny, new ball, but Rashid showed he can give England a different option.

Then there was Malan coming good. Even though he returned the scores that led him to be rated as the world’s number one T20 batsman, there were still questions going into the series finale.

It must be stressed, though, those questions were not coming from Morgan.

When I spoke to him before the series about the prospect of Alex Hales returning for any batsman who had a run of low scores, he was keen to give the backing to all of the players in his squad. He did the same at the end of the series.

Hales would be one option to come in, as would Joe Root – remember what a good tournament he had when England reached the World Cup final in 2016 – but it feels as though Morgan has identified this group of players and, barring injury, these will be ones bidding to become double world champions.

That isn’t to say there aren’t questions to answer.

For me, the big one is how to get the best out of Ben Stokes, who can’t be enjoying batting at number six, because of the relatively limited opportunity he gets to get make an impact from so low in the batting order.

Stokes seems ideal to open in T20s, as he has done for Rajasthan Royals in the IPL.

But, in this England side, who would he replace? Buttler and Jason Roy have already squeezed Jonny Bairstow to number four. Malan, at number three, is rated as the world’s best. That leaves Morgan and Stokes to come next.

Clearly Stokes is a huge player and can still have an impact with the ball, in the field and by his very presence.

However, that doesn’t stop the nagging feeling England could get more out of him with the bat.

It’s a similar story with Sam Curran. No less than Mahendra Singh Dhoni has Curran opening the batting and bowling for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL.

Yet, because of the unbelievable talent in the England team, Curran batted at nine and bowled only one over in the series decider.

Curran will vie with Jordan and Moeen Ali for the final two places in the England XI.

All of them can contribute with the bat – Moeen especially. Jordan is one of the best fielders in the world, experienced and skilled when bowling at the death. Curran is a left-arm option and Moeen could be a second spinner.

Conditions will dictate, but if Moeen has not managed a single game in this series, it suggests England will only look at two spinners if it’s a real turning pitch.

When we look ahead to the World Cup in the autumn, it’s hard not to conclude that we’ve probably just seen the two best teams in the tournament.

Australia will be strong and West Indies will come together well. Most sides will think they have a chance – that is the beauty of T20 – but England and India will be battle-hardened and better for this experience.

India have shown that their pool of exciting players has so much depth. England have been there – they won the last 50-over World Cup and were runners-up at the last T20 World Cup.

They are the two best teams in the world and the ones the others will be wary of in October and November.

 

Agencies

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