Fri. Jan 22nd, 2021

England head coach Chris Silverwood says that England will need to call on all the depth in their squad as they try and protect the welfare of players during an onerous winter schedule. 

After England’s tour of South Africa — the three Twenty20 internationals begin on Friday and are followed by three one-day internationals — England are due to play a Test series in Sri Lanka in the new year, followed by a multi-format series in India.

A number of England’s leading players across the three formats, including Jofra Archer, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes, have already played in the Indian Premier League, which finished earlier this month. The strain on players is particularly great with the need to create bio-secure ‘bubbles’ to minimise the risk of Covid-19 infecting players.

“I am looking at the moment, for players and staff, how do we get them in and out? Where can we make gaps for them?,” Silverwood said ahead of the start of England’s international winter.

“There’s uncertainty around family visits so it’s about how we make the best of what we’ve got available to us,” he added. “It’s something I’m scribbling away in my notebook to try and find solutions and various options to get people home to see families and keep people mentally fresh.”

Even with the tour of South Africa their only series before Christmas, England are already mindful of the need to manage the workloads of players and allow them as much time at home as possible. Rather than be involved in the ODI series, as they would ordinarily be, Archer, Stokes and Sam Curran will all leave South Africa after the T20 series. 

Silverwood confirmed that the T20I series would see Buttler resume his position at the top of the order for England, despite ending the IPL season batting in the middle order while his Rajasthan Royals team-mate Stokes was promoted to open with great success. Buttler has an outstanding record opening for England in T20 cricket, averaging 51 from 11 innings with five half-centuries, including a match-winning 77* against Australia in his last game.

“I know Ben was keen to do it, he’s always keen to get up the order and give it a go. I wouldn’t say I was surprised, I’d say I was glad to see him do well,” Silverwood said. “It’s great that those two guys get experience of doing different things and I don’t think it ever hurts them as players to explore different options, but it doesn’t muddy the waters at all.

“We’re pretty certain about which way we want to go and we’ll do that. We are blessed with the batsmen we’ve got here, world-class players who are capable of doing a multitude of jobs in that order.” 

England’s plan to retain Buttler as opener means that he is set to partner Jason Roy in the first T20I. They are likely to be followed by Dawid Malan at No 3, with Jonny Bairstow slotting down to number four on account of his dexterity against spin. Eoin Morgan and Stokes are then set to bat at five and six, although the exact batting order will vary from game to game depending on the match situation.

After his stellar start to the tour, Sam Curran is likely to slot into the side — most likely at number seven — putting Moeen Ali’s berth in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, the South Asian Cricket Association – a newly formed independent body – announced a programme of bursaries, education opportunities and coaching aimed to increase the representation of British Asian cricketers in the county game. While around 30 per cent of recreational cricketers are British Asian, the figure falls to just 5 per cent at domestic level.

Meanwhile, Sourav Ganguly, the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, has said that England’s Test tour of India early next year will feature one fewer Test match than planned and two extra Twenty20 internationals.

The tour was originally due to comprise five Test matches. But it will now feature four Tests, alongside three One Day Internationals and five T20Is. Ganguly also confirmed that the BCCI intend to stage all the tour in India, although moving some or all of the games to the UAE is a back-up plan depending on Covid-19 developments.

“England is touring India for four Test matches, three ODIs, and five T20Is,” Ganguly said at a virtual event. “It is easier to have bilaterals than having eight-nine-ten teams, which gets difficult, but we have to keep assessing the situation.

 “A lot of people are talking about the second Covid wave. We’re already hearing of cases being on the rise again in Mumbai and Delhi, so we have to be careful and make sure everything is in order.”

A full itinerary for the tour has yet to be announced. But there are plans for one Test match to be a day-night game, with Ahmedabad’s Motera Stadium reportedly being lined up to stage the game. 

The four Test matches will be England’s final series in the 2019-21 edition of the World Test Championship, following the two-Test tour of Sri Lanka. England, who are currently third in the Championship standings – behind Australia and India – are likely to need to at least get a series win and draw across the two series to stand a chance of reaching the top two, who will play in the final at Lord’s next summer.

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