A new documentary, ‘The Greatest Game’, charting the road to 2019 World Cup glory is due to air on Saturday lunchtime, by which point England’s fate at this T20 World Cup will be clear.
Buttler’s side go into tomorrow’s final Group 1 fixture against Sri Lanka needing to win to reach the last-four — whether the task is any more complex than that was dependent on Australia’s result against Afghanistan today — and keep alive hopes of adding to that 2019 50-over triumph to become the first men’s double white-ball world champions (rolls of the tongue, doesn’t it?) at the second attempt.
It has often been suggested that this crop of white-ball players will have underachieved should they finish their careers with just the one global title, which rather ignores the fact that already the generational lines have blurred, with six of the XI that started the 2019 final not here, whether for reasons of age, fitness, form or format.
Eoin Morgan’s retirement this summer marked perhaps the first definitive split and a documentary that is somehow already nostalgia-inducing offers another timely reminder of how quickly the wheels turn.
T20 specialism will doubtless prolong the careers of some of this England squad, the majority of whom are already comfortably the wrong side of 30, but of the 11 players used at this tournament so far, Sam Curran and Harry Brook are the only notable fledglings.
The cycle of annual international tournaments has left no obvious window (or need) for wholesale refreshment, and lends itself to the theory there will always be another opening just around the corner, but one or two will not be confident of making it to India — where a 50-over World Cup will be extremely tough to win — this time next year, and several more to the USA and Caribbean in 2024.
The clock is ticking on for Dawid Malan, who at 35 may be moved on from after this tournament, and perhaps even Adil Rashid, seemingly in decline at 34, though still some way clear of the few potential successors and essential in Asia. The time, it appears, may well be now.
“I don’t think we feel we deserve or have the right to win World Cups because we have a good side,” bowler Chris Woakes said yesterday. “It’s all about how we perform in these crucial moments and games.”
The time, it appears, may well be now for many in this England side
One must-win down and, hopefully, three to go is the same position England found themselves in heading into the final group match in 2019 and between them and the semi-finals this time is an old friend in Chris Silverwood, who since being axed by the ECB in February has taken the helm at Sri Lanka and inspired a surprise Asia Cup triumph this summer.
Silverwood was faced with something of a double-edged sword during his time in charge, spread thin by the demands of coaching both red- and white-ball formats but only ever likely to be judged on his Test results, the assumption being that the limited-overs set-up would largely take care of itself so long as Morgan remained captain.
England were a couple of desperate overs from reaching a T20 World Cup final under Silverwood, but would even winning the trophy in the UAE 12 months ago have spared his job following another Ashes debacle? It seems unlikely.
Now under separate head coaches, the two sides have increasingly diverged in terms of playing personnel, so it is a touch surprising to count that almost half of England’s current first-choice T20 XI played a part in that Ashes defeat.
“You definitely do feel that sort of burden, a little bit, of the fact that you could have done better to help someone stay in a job,” Woakes conceded. “I had some good times with Spoons and I’d still class him as a friend. It’ll be good to come up against him on Saturday.”
Woakes, now 33, is one of those who has been there throughout, present in the nadir of 2015 and at the summit four years later, a peak receding into the background faster than any of us would like, but with the hope that another may yet come looming into view.