One tour down, one more to go. England’s winter of T20 cricket rolls on to Australia, and the World Cup. Having beaten Pakistan by 67 runs in the decisive game of this seven-match series, their stand-in captain, Moeen Ali, believes the team are good and ready for their run at the tournament.
“If you look at the last two games of this series, both must-win matches, going into a World Cup that’s really important, because the pressure to perform was huge,” Moeen said. “We’re in a very good position now going into the World Cup.”
Moeen stopped short of describing them as favourites. He thinks that is India and Australia. “But I know we’re a very dangerous team to play and a lot of teams will fear playing us.” England will find out how they measure up against Australia in Perth this Sunday, when they play the first of three more T20 matches. After that, incredibly, they play another warm-up match against Pakistan, who they will no doubt be eager to find out all about after a mere seven games against them in the last fortnight.
Moeen was particularly frustrated by the fourth and fifth of them, which his team lost while chasing low totals. “In the end, we’ll look back and think if we were really on it we would have won 6-1 in this series, so we were disappointed with those two in particular.” But the disappointment was softened “by the way the new guys have played, particularly Ben Duckett and Harry Brook, who have been outstanding in almost every game, and the way Mark Wood and Chris Woakes have come back after long injuries”.
In the end, though, this tour was not about runs and wickets, or even the World Cup. And not just because the team England pick there will be so different (Jos Buttler will be captain, Ben Stokes will take Ben Duckett’s slot in the middle order, and Mark Wood, who was rested for this match, will lead the attack). This tour was about what happened off the field, and the renewal of an old and occasionally testy friendship between the two countries. It had been badly damaged by England’s decision this time last year to pull out of their first tour since 2005.
That is all forgotten about now. After this tour, the friendship between the teams is as strong as it has ever been. “It’s been amazing to be back here and playing cricket here once again after 17 years,” Moeen said. “Even before the cricket started, it was a big thing for us to come here. It’s a privilege to be here and play cricket once again.”