After spending two weeks and playing three games with a young squad and minds on the distant target of a 50-over tournament scheduled for 2027, this is where the serious business starts for England.
Six months out from a T20 World Cup in which, while co-hosted by the USA and West Indies, England are likely to play only in the Caribbean, the next five games represent a crucial chance to boost confidence in the format and knowledge of local conditions.
“Naturally you want to win the series, of course you do,” said Chris Woakes, one of five players not involved in the one-day internationals who are in England’s squad for the T20s.
“There’s always an emphasis on the result but, at the same time, you want to prepare for what’s ahead. So [the focus is] learnings as to conditions, and also performances sometimes rather than the end results. The perfect idea is you do all of that and get the result as well.”
England’s five fresh players – Moeen Ali, Tymal Mills, Adil Rashid, Reece Topley and Woakes – boast a total of 241 T20 caps and a combined age of just under 168. This transfusion of experience reflects a very different approach to this series. West Indies have done similar, bringing in Jason Holder, Andre Russell, Nicholas Pooran and the T20 captain, Rovman Powell. Compared to this lot, the ODI series was literally child’s play.
Precisely one month and one day after they played their last World Cup game, England’s preparations for the next one shift up a gear. England’s past 20 games were all ODIs, a run which threw up a few highlights but overall has not been a lot of fun and they will welcome the change of focus. But they will be conscious they have played only six T20s since lifting that World Cup trophy in Melbourne last year and have lost four of them.
After failing so badly in India, it would be a boost to beat a West Indies team whose ranking in the format – they are seventh, with England second – does not reflect the strength of their squad, and particularly their batting.
The opening game on Tuesday also introduces procedural novelty in the shape of a clock trial, which will now run in all white-ball internationals until April. Teams must be ready to bowl the first ball of each over within 60 seconds of the completion of the last one – should they fail, after two free passes, the third and subsequent offences will each result in a five-run deduction from their score.
“It kind of makes sense,” Woakes said. “Hopefully it will speed the game up a little bit. When you’re out there in the middle you don’t feel like you’re playing it slow. Even though guys might be taking drinks or swapping gloves, the game does feel pretty quick. But we’re in the entertainment business and we need to make sure the viewers are happy, so I think it’s a good idea.”
England named their squad for the Test series in India on Monday, without Woakes in it. The player of the series in the summer’s Ashes, he is now perceived as a home conditions specialist in red-ball cricket. “You’re always desperate to be in the squad but at my age, with my away record – particularly on the subcontinent – I feel like it’s a fair decision,” the 34-year-old said.
“We had conversations about where my best cricket is likely to be played moving forward and in Test cricket it looks likely to be at home. I feel at ease with the decision. Of course you want to perform in every condition. It’s something I’ve tried for across a long period of time.
“In the white-ball game my away record is almost better than my home record, so it’s not just purely those conditions, but with the red ball I have found it a little bit difficult. It’s so frustrating, but it’s not through lack of effort. I’ve tried a lot of different skills and it just didn’t really suit my bowling, the Test game away from home.”
The decision means that Woakes will be a T20 specialist for most of the next six months, playing the ILT20 in the United Arab Emirates in January and February and potentially also in the Indian Premier League, if he is bought in the auction next week.