Former skipper Michael Atherton believes England are major contenders to win the ICC World Twenty20 in India.
Their limited-overs cricket has come a long way in just over 12 months, since they suffered a group-stage exit at the 50-over World Cup, and ex-England international Atherton believes the current crop are capable of emulating the 2010 World T20-winning side.
“It has been a short walk from the World Cup to the World T20, but England have been making giant strides in one-day cricket,” Atherton, also a Sky Sports commentator, wrote in The Times.
“Difficult to look beyond India for the tag of favourites as it is, Eoin Morgan’s team have as much chance as anyone else in the competing pack, especially in a tournament where luck plays a massive part.
“Confirmation that England are dangerous came in the first warm-up match against another team that had humiliated them in the World Cup, New Zealand.
“The shellacking they received in Wellington 12 months ago was validation that they were playing analogue cricket in a digital age and was the low point of that campaign.
“Here, to confirm progress, England won with four balls to spare, a fair reflection of where they are right now: justifiably confident, competitive and ready to have a crack at the only global tournament that they have won before.”
England’s 15-man squad, which includes six players who have yet to play at a major tournament, boasts similarities to the triumphant side Morgan played in in the Caribbean six years ago.
Left-arm seamer David Willey and Reece Topley provide variation, like Ryan Sidebottom did in 2010, while the squad has a plethora of power hitters and two high-quality spinners in Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali.
“Now the squad has a blend of dangerous, big-hitting, dynamic batsmen and variety in the bowling, with two left-arm seamers and a wrist spinner,” Atherton added.
“Adil Rashid will surely play a vital role given the importance of wrist spin and his ability to send the ball both ways in 20-over cricket.
“Rashid and Moeen Ali applied the brakes at the weekend with wickets after a rollicking start from the Black Caps.
“Second, and this is linked to the change in personnel, is a more freewheeling approach and a recognition that the sky will not fall in with defeat.
“Marginal gains, that destructive philosophy when applied to heavy-duty team sport in which luck plays a vital role, has been put to one side with greater emphasis on flair, imagination and instinct.”