Home SPORTS Moeen Ali on England’s twin World Cup defence and preparations against New...

Moeen Ali on England’s twin World Cup defence and preparations against New Zealand

Moeen Ali on England’s twin World Cup defence and preparations against New Zealand

England last week began preparations for their 50-over World Cup defence by taking on New Zealand in a four-match T20 series. Which might seem odd, even accounting for the vagaries of the international schedule – except for the fact that England last week also began preparations for their T20 World Cup defence by taking on New Zealand in a four-match T20 series.

The next global T20 event is less than 10 months away – despite England only lifting the trophy in Australia last November – and Jos Buttler’s team have just two five-match series scheduled between now and then, in the Caribbean later this year and at home against Pakistan in May.

So while discussions of performances against New Zealand have understandably revolved around matters pertaining to the tournament starting in India in a few weeks’ time – Harry Brook’s omission or the rise to prominence of Gus Atkinson – senior members of the team also have a weather eye on 2024 and a shot at a third T20 title.

Moeen Ali is one among a core of double-world champions and he was able to put England’s heavy defeat in the third T20I at Edgbaston in perspective. New Zealand “batted really well and put us under pressure”, raising their game after being brushed aside in the first two games; tougher competition may help in the short term, but England can also take on board T20 lessons relevant to a World Cup in the Caribbean and the USA.

“I think it’s difficult to compare 50 overs to T20s, but it’s good being under pressure as a side,” Moeen said. “I think we’ll learn more in the 50-over series [against New Zealand] but still you can learn, the T20 World Cup’s not too far away and on these kind of wickets we need to adapt better.

“You still want to be playing T20 cricket because of the [T20] World Cup being next June. It’s just how it is with the schedule. But T20s is a nice build-up to 50-overs.”

It is also a measure of England’s depth and improved standing in both white-ball formats that they can plot twin World Cup defences with confidence. Their hopes for India are strengthened by a wealth of IPL experience – yes, different format, we know – as well as the inclusion of Ben Stokes, whose return has sparked the knock-on debate about Brook, while performances by T20Is debutants Atkinson and Brydon Carse against New Zealand hint at the talent coming through.

“You never look too far ahead but we’re at a stage with England where you think about these things, about winning things,” Moeen said. “It’s not like we go into World Cups now thinking we’re not going to win it. We’re in that luxury position: it’s always great to look forward to these World Cups knowing you’ve got a great chance to win.

“The mindset’s completely different now. Playing IPLs and stuff has been unbelievable, great experiences for everyone. We’re not overawed by the occasions, we’re in a position where we’re going into World Cups that we want to win and retain.”

Such bullishness, unheard of before the Eoin Morgan-led white-ball revolution in 2015, explains how England could shrug off a 74-run loss – both Moeen and the captain, Jos Buttler, chose to praise New Zealand rather than focus on shortcomings – as well as some of the thinking behind Brook’s exclusion. As Morgan said last week: “In really, really successful sides, you have brilliant players that sometimes miss out. And that’s okay.”

Brook has, after all, only played three ODIs in his career – but his talent in the shorter formats has been on show in the New Zealand series, with scores of 47 off and 67 off 36 in the first two games, and Moeen said he would not be surprised if he forced his way into the 50-over World Cup squad one way or another.

“Harry Brook is going to be a great player. He’s playing great at the minute,” Moeen said. “He’s been unlucky to miss out but the way he’s playing he could come back in – you never know.

“If someone like him missed out because of someone like Stokesy… He’s going to be a great player, he’s playing so well at the minute. It’s a great headache to have as a side and I’m sure the captain and the coaches are thinking the same thing.”

One player whose confidence has looked a little low, despite a half-century in the first T20I, is Dawid Malan – the man identified in some quarters as most vulnerable to Brook being promoted before the final squad deadline of September 28. Malan’s 54 at Chester-le-Street was his only significant score in his last 11 T20 innings, a run which encompassed being dropped by Trent Rockets, and he cut a frustrated figure after being dismissed for 2 off 11 balls at Edgbaston.

Moeen, however, backed Malan to come good again, with the final T20I against New Zealand to come at Trent Bridge on Tuesday, before a four-match ODI series that will see the build-up to this year’s World Cup intensify.

“One thing with Malan is he’s never let the team down,” he said. “He’s been on all the tours and done really well, he’s always scored runs. He’s a top player in his own right, he’s never let England down. You’re guaranteed runs from him, he hardly ever fails. These two innings, he’s obviously human and people do miss out but he will score a lot of runs for England to come.”

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick

Source link