England to recall IPL players for ‘slug fest’ World Cup warm-ups

Phil Salt – England to recall IPL players for 'slug fest' World Cup warm-ups
Phil Salt has been in terrific form for the Kolkata Knight Riders but will miss their likely play-off matches - Getty Images

England will bring all their IPL players home early to face Pakistan in preparation for June’s T20 World Cup defence that they expect to be a big-hitting “slugfest”.

England confirmed their provisional squad for the tournament, which takes place in the Caribbean and USA in June, with Jofra Archer and Chris Jordan selected, and Chris Woakes omitted, as reported by Telegraph Sport on Monday. There is also a place for Ben Duckett, who benefits from Ben Stokes’s withdrawal, as well as Tom Hartley, who is uncapped in T20 internationals.

Eight members of the 15-man squad, including the entire top four, are currently playing in the Indian Premier League. The knockout stage of that tournament clashes with the four-match T20i series against Pakistan, which starts on May 22 and serves as preparation for England’s T20 World Cup defence. England will fly to the Caribbean on May 31, with their first World Cup game coming on June 4 against Scotland. They are able to make changes to their squad until May 25.

Managing director Rob Key, who also heads up the selection panel, confirmed that all players would return to face Pakistan as England look to learn from their error-ridden ODI World Cup defence last year, when a muddled buildup saw them arrive in India unprepared.

The one player who could miss a game or two against Pakistan is captain Jos Buttler, whose wife is expecting their third child at a similar time.

“I left it open for a while and made everyone aware there was a good chance they were going to be called back and we’ll how the land lay when we got to that,” said Key. “Now we’re at that point where it’s important that this team gets together, because there are a few newer players coming into this side.

“The likes of Phil Salt, Will Jacks have been around a little bit, but this is now very much their opportunity.

“You just want them to get together and spend a bit of time and build up to it. So much of what our white-ball team has done has been turn up a couple of days before and, bang, we’re into a series. Whereas I think that Pakistan series is going to be important for that, so they’ll all come back ready for that.”

England have learned from disastrous ODI World Cup

Asked if England had learned from the errors of the 2023 World Cup, Key said: “Yeah, I think so. There are a fair few lessons that you learn. It can always be fluid to some degree, but you want people to be understanding what their roles are, what your best XI is going to be. You make sure when we hit Barbados that we know what that is.”

Key said England’s selection had been informed by the “slug-fest” series they played against the West Indies in December, when Salt scored two T20i centuries. As a result, they have valued power-hitting right down the order, with Key even saying that Jordan’s batting had played a part in Woakes being left out. He added that a back injury for Jamie Overton had proved “desperately unlucky” as he was “very much in the conversation” due to the “style of cricket we want”.

“We wanted to make sure we had as long a batting line-up as possible,” he said. “That series in the Caribbean before Christmas, it was a beneficial thing to do. It was a slug fest really. Six after six with both teams trading blows. That became apparent how much value you have to put on the power game. Also, I think it’s our strength.

“Generally I think it’ll be that batting depth we want, because what it does is give a license to the people before them. That’s what we’ve generally done pretty well. When you go out as an opener with that long batting line-up that sort of allows you to go a bit hard and a bit sooner. People talk about playing without fear but actually it’s not easy to do if you’re the last man left and you fall off a cliff with your batting after that.”

Archer’s return will be a massive boost

Key said that Archer is “that bowler that’s just so special you do everything you can to try to get him back playing”. Archer has not played competitive cricket for almost a year, having suffered a recurrence of the right elbow injuries that, along with a stress fracture of the back, have troubled him since his breakthrough summer in 2019. He is currently in Barbados, where he grew up, playing club cricket, but is set to play for Sussex Seconds on May 14 at Beckenham before a full return against Pakistan.

“We’ve taken the longer road this time,” said Key. “But as always with Jofra it’s fingers crossed until he’s out there playing.

“He’s one of those rare cricketers. When you look at the attributes you want for a bowler in international cricket, Jofra has all of them. A lot of bowlers tick one or two of those, but Jofra has absolutely all of them. For Test cricket or white-ball cricket, he’s someone who can bowl at any stage. He can start, bowl in the middle and at the end, and he smack it as well. It’s a better game when pace is in it.”

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