England up against weather, location and mighty India at T20 World Cup

<span>Adil Rashid and Harry Brook train prior to <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:England;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">England</a>’s semi-final against India.</span><span>Photograph: Darrian Traynor-ICC/ICC/Getty Images</span>

Guyana was once a staple of England tours to the Caribbean. From the steamboat passengers of 1930 led by the Honourable Freddie Calthorpe through to Mike Atherton’s jumbo jet set in 1998, in all bar one visit to the region their cricketers disembarked at Georgetown on the South American mainland.

Then they pretty much stopped. There was a Super Eight encounter with Ireland in the 2007 World Cup, a couple of one-day internationals against West Indies in 2009 and two wet group games during the 2010 World T20. Then another 14 years of the holiday islands getting dibs on the wallets of the beach‑seeking English tourists; white sand and lapping waves preferred to the steamy fringes of the Amazon rainforest.

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This prolonged absence from one of the Caribbean’s traditional cricketing heartlands ends on Thursday when Jos Buttler’s team meet India in the second semi‑final of the men’s T20 World Cup. On paper it is a pretty tasty return, too, one that pits the defending champions against a side that has been unstoppable. Rohit Sharma and his men are said to be fuelled by a sense of atonement after their heartache in the 50-over World Cup last year and, assuming doubts do not creep in the closer they get to ending an 11-year global trophy drought, they appear to have all bases covered in their XI.

India’s passionate global fans have known for some time their team would be at Providence Stadium should they make it this far. But England’s followers had confirmation of what was a 50-50 call between Trinidad and Guyana only on Monday afternoon when India beat Australia, 24 hours after a semi-final spot was secured. Anyone who then looked into making the trip – including written media and the BBC, official radio partners no less – soon discovered that, as had been the case for some time, there was not a bed to be found in Georgetown. Expect blue to be the predominant colour in the stands for this one.

While the American frontier was explored at the beginning, this tournament is chiefly a Caribbean affair, where Twenty20 is enjoyed under lights to a thumping soca beat. First and absolutely foremost, however, it is a television product; the first in a four-year deal that cost Star India $3bn and represents 90% of the International Cricket Council’s revenue. Star wanted consistent start times for India throughout – 10.30am local time to make it 8pm viewing back home – and just a day out from the fixtures being released in January the broadcaster is said to have successfully lobbied to make this the case during the group stages, along with 25 of the 55 games overall.

But with the first semi-final in Trinidad always down to be played at night, and the second slated for Guyana at 10.30am the following day – itself a climbdown after Cricket West Indies originally asked for all three knockout games to be evening affairs – the odds facing the punters this week were something neither Star nor the ICC were willing to take on. A playing regulation was inserted to ensure India would definitely be in Guyana regardless of finishing first or second in their Super Eight group. Every country nodded along to this, their split of the kitty too alluring to make a fuss about a trifling issue such as sporting integrity.

So here we are (or rather are not in this correspondent’s case) although the match itself looks pretty ripe for a rumble next to the jungle. That is provided they get on. June is Guyana’s wettest month – 359mm of rain on average – and the forecasts look a bit iffy. Providence Stadium, which replaced sub-sea‑level Bourda in 2007, is a ground that dries quickly but in the event of no result – a minimum of 10 overs a side is required to constitute a match in the knockout stages, up from five in the group stages – India would progress after finishing top of their Super Eight pool.

Unlike the first semi-final in Trinidad and Saturday’s (naturally 10.30am) final in Barbados, there is no reserve day for Guyana, rather an additional 250 minutes to get the minimum overs played. This inconsistency in two sets of playing conditions has raised eyebrows in some quarters, with the quick turnaround for the final having forced the ICC’s hand here. Really, it should have scheduled the final for Sunday. Either way, if England do go out via a washout, they can hardly complain after a lurching campaign in contrast to India’s frictionless cruise.

It may require the perfect game to beat them on the field; an asphyxiation akin to the one Australia pulled off in Ahmedabad last November, perhaps, or even a calculated gamble to meet the indomitable Jasprit Bumrah with aggression. It will also require a rapid assessment of conditions. India played two T20s against West Indies in Guyana last year – won one, lost one – but not one of England’s players had previously set foot on the ground before their single training day.

Andrew Flintoff is the sole Englishman returning to Georgetown although the key man in the backroom staff is Kieron Pollard. He has been a vital resource for Buttler and the head coach, Matthew Mott, with sources saying the victory against West Indies in Saint Lucia was a direct result of the Trinidadian war-gaming it down to a tee. Draw up a similar plan for India – players he knows well from his time at Mumbai Indians – and the next stop will be the far more familiar climes of Barbados.