T20 World Cup: It’s time for one of the England boys to create history against New Zealand

I’ll be honest with you, I’m a bit superstitious, so I’m glad England got that defeat by South Africa out of the way in the group stage.

From memory, I’ve never seen a team go through an entire Twenty20 tournament without losing a game, so it bothered me a bit until then.

It’s helped me sleep a bit easier at night ahead of Wednesday’s semi-final against New Zealand. The law of averages tells you that even the very best teams are due at least one loss in a competition like this, as they are beaten once every four or five games. How often have you seen teams go through a group stage unbeaten and then lose a game they shouldn’t have?

I’m glad England got their first defeat out of the way in the T20 World Cup vs South Africa

Even allowing for the South Africa result, England have been excellent in this tournament and there is no reason we shouldn’t expect a return to winning ways.

Yes, there are key personnel missing but Eoin Morgan will be reminding the other players before the game that it is someone’s time to make a name for himself, to create history, to get us out of jail or get us off to a flier.

And the biggest strength of this team is its depth. England travelled to this World Cup without me or Ben Stokes, but I was always confident that our absence could be covered because of the quality we have in reserve.

This has always been a squad effort and that is why it’s Sam Curran I feel for more than anyone else – even though it’s always hard when players are ruled out of a tournament due to injury and it’s unfortunate Jason Roy and Tymal Mills have been dealt that fate in recent days.

Captain Eoin Morgan will be telling the team it's time for someone to step up and make history when they take on New Zealand

Captain Eoin Morgan will be telling the team it’s time for someone to step up and make history when they take on New Zealand

Sam was in the original squad and didn’t get to go to Dubai, period. That’s tougher. Sure, no one wants to get injured during a tournament like Jason and Tymal have but at least they got a taste of it. They were able to contribute.

Yes, you feel bad at having to sit out but knowing you’ve helped the team has its rewards. Sam didn’t experience that. Ben and I were injured long before the tournament, so we didn’t get our hopes up. But being ruled out last minute is like a rollercoaster ride.

Jason’s absence means someone will have to slot into the opening role alongside Jos Buttler – who is either the best in the world right now or not far off it. I can’t think of anyone better.

He’s a dangerous batter and opposition teams must scratch their heads trying to prepare for a player who can hit the same ball for six over long-on or paddle it into the stands at fine leg. That’s pretty hard to defend against. Who partners him is not any great problem. There is real depth in this team and it is led by a great captain who knows he has several options to choose from.

Jos Buttler is either the best in the world or not far off it - teams must scratch their heads trying to defend against him

Jos Buttler is either the best in the world or not far off it – teams must scratch their heads trying to defend against him

Jonny Bairstow is an opener in white-ball cricket, Dawid Malan can open and Sam Billings can come in somewhere in the middle order. Someone, somewhere is going to get an opportunity they wouldn’t have had a week ago.

In this team, someone always steps up and I believe that person could be any one of the XI who take the field in Abu Dhabi. It’s a strength of the team that it won’t always be the same person putting their hand up to contribute.

People were questioning how we might cope at the death without my bowling to call on but this team is about covering for other people.

We addressed this on tours such as the one to India earlier this year when different players were challenged in different scenarios. Allowing people to bowl in different situations was preparation for moments like this.

My advice to the team is to stay calm and they should have a real shot of making the final

My advice to the team is to stay calm and they should have a real shot of making the final

Every Twenty20 series I’ve played for England over the past two-and-a-half years has been with this World Cup in mind.

When you are building a team, you can’t put all your eggs in one basket. Say Morgan had put all of the responsibility on me back in March, we would be scrambling for someone to bowl at the end of an innings now.

Chris Jordan has met the standards I expect from him. He trains to the level he has produced. 

My message to my team-mates is just stay calm. We’ve been on this ride for a long time now and if we lose, we lose. But if we play like we can, we have a real shot.

RAFIQ SHOULDN’T HAVE BEEN PUT THROUGH THIS 

I’ve never experienced racism in English cricket. Yes, I suffered racial abuse on a tour of New Zealand, but I had not suffered anything before or indeed since.

I don’t know what Azeem Rafiq has gone through, but having processed the feelings, and considered what he wanted to say, how he was going to say it and then been brave enough to speak out, it felt unacceptable he had to go through it all over again. And again. 

Having to revisit things time after time is painful and you never know what scars open. He shouldn’t have been put through that.

It feels unacceptable Azeem Rafiq had to go through his racism ordeal all over again

It feels unacceptable Azeem Rafiq had to go through his racism ordeal all over again

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