Have England accidentally hit upon their ideal T20 bowling formula?
England are definitely the most dangerous batting unit in the shortest format of the game. They have Jos Buttler, Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Eoin Morgan, Sam Curran and the world's no.1 T20I batsman in the same team.
They have no place for Joe Root (JOE ROOT!), Tom Banton, Sam Billings and quite a few others banging the door down with performances in the T20 Blast and in other franchise tournaments.
It won't be far-fetched to say that England could play with 10 batters and still win by chasing down any total or setting incredibly high totals. They effectively bat until no.10 too. They win a lot of games too! A lot! Yet, if there's one chink in England's armour it's their bowling.
It's not something they are unaware of. From the One Day International side to the T20I side, they recognise their bowling woes and have time and again sought to fix it. It never was perhaps as evident as it was on Friday when they named their XI with six bowlers, all boasting different skillsets.
Jofra Archer, Sam Curran, Ben Stokes, Adil Rashid, Tom Curran and Chris Jordan.
Sam Curran is their powerplay bowler alongside Jofra Archer, whose stunning show for Rajasthan in the Indian T20 League season has dispelled the notion that he is a death bowler alone in T20s. Adil Rashid and Ben Stokes (although he didn't bowl on Friday) are middle overs bowlers.
Rashid turns and flights big and gets wickets with his uncanny wrong 'uns. Stokes bangs the ball into the wicket and is an enforcer if used well in the middle overs. Tom Curran and Chris Jordan are death bowlers with different skills. Curran has tons of slower ball variations while Jordan is a yorker specialist.
The line-up misses someone of the quality of Mark Wood, whose pace might have been handy on the wicket. Yet, this team, as mentioned before, was picked with an eye on clear roles.
But on Friday, England bizarrely chose to give two overs to Tom Curran in the powerplay. Were they experimenting with him despite knowing his skillsets? Or was the concept of having bowlers for specific roles a mere myth conjured up by cricket analysts? Perhaps England weren't aware they had picked the ideal T20 bowling recipe on paper.
Whatever might be the case, Curran's powerplay overs leaked 27 runs in total. He wasn't quite useful in the death either with his slow ball variations. While a handy option, England certainly have a better option in Mark Wood in their side and accidentally, with their mini-experiment with Tom Curran in the powerplay, they might have stumbled upon their best T20 formula.
Wood in the side ensures England have three bowlers to split the powerplay with - Archer, Sam Curran and Wood. Rashid and Stokes will also be aided by the presence of Wood in the middle overs, the extra pace always being handy in that phase.
Sam Curran showed impeccable skills in the middle overs too on Friday with his variations. One over had off-cutters and bouncers in turns (three apiece) while another had two stock balls, a wide yorker, two off-cutters and a bouncer.
Curran is a street-smart bowler and on Friday, on a sluggish pitch, despite a top powerplay spell, he showed that he could adapt to the team's needs while understanding the pitch.
If Curran can handle the late middle overs, or early death overs, it frees up Archer to be the top-tail bowler with Jordan further aiding him in the last few overs. Stokes, Wood and Jordan can even split 8 overs between them sticking to their specific roles.
It's still not a world-class bowling unit, but considering the kind of batting quality they have, this bowling group is more than capable of helping England win games with the ball too, if at all that becomes a need.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Rodger Bosch