NASSER HUSSAIN: Moeen Ali and Tymal Mills are must-picks for England in T20 World Cup opener against West Indies… and they should not axe Eoin Morgan or Dawid Malan despite their lean batting form
- I want Moeen Ali involved against West Indies given how he has played recently
- My strongest England XI would include Moeen as one of two frontline spinners
- Eoin Morgan’s value to the England side far outweighs the runs he contributes
- Dawid Malan’s T20 record provides him with a chance to put things right
Whatever combinations England settle on when they take on West Indies in their opening Twenty20 World Cup match, Moeen Ali is a must-pick.
As long as the dew isn’t a huge factor, the way Moeen has played recently means I want him involved; he’s a good striker of the ball, a fine player of spin and would be my choice as fifth bowler.
In the batting order, I would have him floating, so if a left-arm spinner came on, he could be sent in early. He has shown great versatility with his recent performances, first in winning the IPL with Chennai and subsequently in the warm-up game against India this week when he smashed 43 not out off 20 balls at the death.
Moeen Ali (R) and Tymal Mills (L) are must-picks for England against West Indies
He appears as comfortable at No 3 or No 4 as he does at No 7 and it feels like England haven’t used him as effectively as some of the franchises he represents.
My strongest England XI would include Moeen as one of two frontline spinners, plus a third in Liam Livingstone as the sixth bowler — a bit of a gamble if you end up defending a score under the floodlights and the dew takes effect. If the ball becomes a bar of soap and skids on, the batters will love it.
However, picking just three seamers avoids leaving out either Dawid Malan, the No 1 ranked Twenty20 batsman in the world, or Eoin Morgan, the best white-ball captain England have ever had. I would not advocate going down that route.
My strongest England XI would include two frontline spinners, plus a third in Liam Livingstone
Morgan’s value to the side far outweighs the runs he contributes. I could not leave him out. You cannot put a value on his calm and experience in pressure situations like a World Cup.
And to drop Malan would be a return to the bad old days. Like in 1999 when Nick Knight, England’s first-choice opener, was hooked for me on the tournament’s opening day.
That’s not to say I don’t recognise the problem of Malan chewing up deliveries at the start of an innings. There are parts of the world where you can catch up, where the power play isn’t so important. The UAE is not one of them; the first six overs are vital.
Yes, Malan’s place is under threat, but despite his slow starts and repetitive dismissals in the warm-ups, his record over two years provides him with a chance to put things right. If he doesn’t soon, they should be ruthless.
To drop Dawid Malan would be a return to the bad old days even if his place is under threat
As for the bowling, Chris Jordan has a question mark next to his name. He’s played all but two of England’s T20s since the last World Cup, but his death bowling has not been as potent over the last year and that is his primary role in the side.
I want the pace of Mark Wood and leg-spinner Adil Rashid picks himself. Tymal Mills is a must because while this World Cup is going to be about pace — as we saw with Lockie Ferguson and Wood on Wednesday — it’s also going to be about subtle variations on pitches that are tiring.
Reductions in pace from 90mph to 70mph — like Mills produces with his back-of-the-hand balls — are going to be vital. He is outstanding in the death overs, an area in which England have struggled recently. As long as he’s fit, I’d play him in every game.
I could not leave Eoin Morgan (R) out, but Chris Jordan (L) has a question mark next to his name