England start their World Twenty20 campaign today, even though Pakistan and India have already played two games and two sides have effectively been eliminated, against the host nation in Guyana. Do they have any chance whatsoever of making the semi-finals or better?
In a word, yes, they've come a long way even since their Champions Trophy performance in September. Swann is a crucial weapon today on a surface that will provide little for the pace bowlers. There has been some talk of Broad being dropped in favour of Sidebottom who bowled well in the warm up game against South Africa, but I would expect - given the nature of the pitch - Broad's pace-changes and other variations will be more useful. Broad's presence also gives us 10 players who can swing a bat.
Bumble on Twitter said he thought they'd chuck Bopara back in to the openers slot, but I can't see them doing that. I think Lumb/Kieswetter is already England's 15th opening partnership in less than 30 Twenty20 Internationals, and it would make a great deal of sense to give them the tournament to perform, unless its completely disastrous.
I've said before that I think Graeme Swann should be promoted up the order if the situation dictates. If we've got a bunch of runs on the board Swann can add plenty in 9 or 10 balls, and he's not going to die trying so he won't take up balls unnecessarily.
England have a great chance if they play the same fearless cricket they've shown on and off in the last 9 months or so. The West Indies are not to be under estimated, Gayle and Chanderpaul at the top are really dangerous and a middle order containing Bravo and Pollard can turn a match in a few balls. On the bowling front, Sammy and Miller can be effective and England will be grateful that Benn is injured. I would question the value in T20s of the likes of Deonarine, Sarwan and Ramdin (although at least Ramdin's presence means Fletcher won't play!), but this won't be easy for either side.
I'm going to stick my neck out and say England will post 160-170 and should have the bowling to defend it - five bowlers in Yardy, Bresnan, Swann, Broad/Sidebottom and Anderson is a good T20 attack and Pieterson-Morgan-Collingwood is as good a middle order trio as you'll find in the tournament. Whatever the totals, England should have enough about them to come out on top tonight.
Azhar Ali - One of the World's Best
5 days ago