ENG vs WI: Will the West Indies go with Gayle and will England take a bold call of dropping Dawid Malan?

Both England and West Indies are not as strong as they would like to be because of injury to key players, lack of form and poor selection calls in some cases.

Venue: Dubai
Group 1
Time: 7:30 pm IST

The evening game between the defending champions West Indies and England is a repeat of the 2016 T20 World Cup final but both sides are not as strong as they would like to be because of injury to key players, lack of form and poor selection calls in some cases.

West Indies
Batting: West Indies’s big hitters usually go the ‘see ball hit ball way’ but a reality check in the warm-up game, in which Afghanistan off-spinner Mohammed Nabi took three early wickets could force them to be a little smarter. Where the battle could be won or lost for West Indies is how their batsmen deal with the situation if England field their off-break and leg-break combo in Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid. The defending champions have issues in their line-up with Chris Gayle, Nicholas Pooran, Shimron Hetmyer and Evin Lewis all coming in with patchy form. The question is will the Windies give Gayle, who is short on runs, the go-ahead at the top of the order hoping that with more time spent in the middle the veteran opener will deliver in the crunch when the time comes. They have the option of playing Lendl Simmons at the top of the order too.

Bowling: That the West Indies had to recall medium-pacer Ravi Rampaul, who is 37, is an indicator of the lack of complete faith in the younger pacers. Rampaul got the selectors’ attention after being the highest wicket taker in the Caribbean Premier League. They have genuine pace in Oshane Thomas but one gets the feeling this team could rue the decision not to draft in Sunil Narine, who was mighty effective in the middle overs during the IPL. The Windies will be tempted to give left-arm spinner Akeal Hosein brought in as a replacement for the injured Fabian Allen. Hosein, 28, has featured in six T20Is and took 13 wickets from 11 games for the Trinbago Knight Riders in the CPL. He also has recent experience of bowling in the UAE as he was a net bowler for Kolkata Knight Riders during the UAE leg of the IPL.

All-rounder: Like the omission of Narine, the decision to keep Jason Holder out too is baffling. Holder, a former captain, would have brought big-match experience in addition to being an effective medium pacer and a potential finisher. So now Windies hopes rest on Andre Russell, the all-rounder with explosive hitting power. The problem is Russell’s fitness. After missing the latter half of the IPL, Russell, who had a hamstring injury, bowled two overs in the warm-up game against Afghanistan. If he finds his rhythm in bowling and his timing returns, half the battle will be won for the Windies. Of course, they have the experienced Dwayne Bravo in the side but his batting form is not what it used to be.

Batting: Can a team afford to carry a T20 skipper who is woefully out of form with the bat in this day and age? The answer, at least for now, is ‘yes’. Eoin Morgan has built a reputation as a calm planner who gets players to execute game plans in the middle. He didn’t have a major knock in the UAE leg of the IPL, but Kolkata kept faith in their skipper’s ability to marshal the players. England will have to make a bold call about the No.1 ranked T20 batsman in the world: Dawid Malan. Malan, who bats one-down, has struggled to get going in the warm-up games on the slower wickets in the UAE. Opening with Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow will give England their best chance to make the most of the Powerplay overs.

Bowling: The toss-up could be between medium-pacers Chris Jordan and Tymal Mills, both of whom have variations that make them death over specialists. If England play them both they may end up being a batsman short, and with the kind of poor form Morgan is in it may not be the wisest of decisions. England is likely to go with Mark Wood, who can be difficult to hit if he clocks upwards of 145 kmph, and can be effective post the Powerplay overs. New-ball duties will be with David Willey and Chris Woakes, but only one is likely to play.

All-rounder: With their two best options Ben Stokes and Sam Curran unavailable, England are a little thin in this department. Liam Livingstone is expected to do the duties of an all-rounder but had hurt his little finger when attempting a catch against India in the warm-up game. According to the latest team update, Livingstone is fit to play. Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes are the other two players who will have to step up with the bat to make up for the absence of Stokes and Curran

England likely XI: Jos Buttler (WK), Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Liam Livingstone, Eoin Morgan (C), Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid, Mark Wood, Tymal Mills

West Indies likely XI: Evin Lewis, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran(WK), Kieron Pollard (C), Andre Russell, Dwayne Bravo, Ravi Rampaul, Oshane Thomas, Akeal Hosein, Roston Chase

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