England’s T20I preparations took a jolt on Wednesday as South Africa edged them by a run courtesy a fine death bowling performance from Lungi Ngidi. That the target was made well within reach of England by the top-order batsmen and the visitors still failed is a matter of concern.
England’s T20I line-up reeks of a typical T20 line-up that is top heavy. They have a slew of options at the top of the order with Jos Buttler and Jasor Roy opening on Wednesday. Jonny Bairstow and Dawid Malan are the other options from within the squad.
Outside the squad, Tom Banton and Alex Hales, in view of their Big Bash League performances, Liam Livingstone and Joe Denly offer other alternatives.
What this leaves England with is a top-order that’s packed with too many options and a less than convincing lower middle-order.
Buttler’s elevation to the top comes on the back of his succesful stint at Rajasthan Royals in a similar role. His strike rate and ability to make use of the powerplays make Buttler an enticing option at the top. But should Bairstow be accomodated in the middle-order where his issues against spin could flare up?
Roy and Buttler are England’s preferred pair at the top. But given Roy’s numbers in the format aren’t that impressive in recent times, does he warrant a place over some of the other competitors? England have shed conservatism in recent times and this has left Joe Root out of the setup.
Roy isn’t conservative but compared to some of the other options available, he may not be as threatening at the top. Bairstow, on the contrary, can tee off with no trouble. He and Buttler can maximus the powerplay but England have a shortage of finishers and Buttler might have to move down for the greater good.
This leaves options outside the squad to partner Bairstow at the top and it’s hard to look past Tom Banton, who has been racking up big performances at the top in T20 cricket, most recently in the Big Bash League.
Moeen Ali is another option, but the all-rounder is a fine player of spin, and is better fit in the middle-order alongside Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes. With Buttler also available down the order, there’s enough and more power in the middle-order. For now, England haven’t arrived at this combination yet, but it seems to be their ideal batting line-up.
Ideal batting line-up: Jonny Bairstow, Tom Banton, Dawid Malan, Eoin Morgan, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali