England did not linger in Pakistan. Six hours after the last ball of the last match at the Gaddafi Stadium, they were on their way again, some back to London, the rest to Perth where they play Australia on Sunday. Only the head coach, Matthew Mott, and a handful of others stayed behind.
He is part of a group flying on Tuesdaybecause the travel logistics were so tricky that the ECB could not get everyone on one plane. Mott has plenty to get on with in the meantime, picking over the bones of England’s 4-3 victory, England’s first in a T20 series since he took over, and planning their T20 World Cup campaign.
Mott says his big question is who is going to open the batting with Jos Buttler. “I don’t think that’s resolved, which is probably not a bad thing. We’ve got four games before that first World Cup game so there’s still plenty of time. Alex Hales did really well at the start of this series, but Phil Salt really took his opportunities too.”
Hales won England’s first match with a fifty, but his form has fallen away a little since. In his next five innings his top score was 27, although he at least looked a little more fluent in the last two of them.
Salt, on the other hand, scraped together 59 runs in the first five matches, then exploded into life with a brilliant, match-winning unbeaten 88 in the sixth. It was an innings that meant everyone you asked about the game the next day seemed to have decided he was their new favourite player. He was batting well in the seventh match, too, before he was run out.
“He showed all the signs we’re looking for as well,” Mott said. “So there’s a lot of options there. It is a good headache to have. We’re very blessed to have a number of players who can open. I know Jos is incredibly keen to get back out there playing.”
Buttler will probably play against Australia on Sunday. He could have played in Pakistan, but England decided not to risk him in the slippery night-time conditions. “As it played out it became less important, because Moeen Ali captained exceptionally well and we’re pretty happy with the lineup the way it was,” said Mott.
“Jos doesn’t really need to prove anything, and once he gets to Australia he’ll be able to go 100% from there.”
Likewise Mark Wood, who missed the final match because he had a bug. “He could have played the last couple of games, we probably talked him out of playing. He always wants to play, but we didn’t want to take that risk with him.”
Mott also needs to decide how to fit in the players joining the squad. He says Ben Stokes will bat at No 4, a job he has not often taken on before. “One of the things that’s been said for a while is that he hasn’t been given a clear role. Jos in particular is clear Ben is a top-four player and those conditions in Australia will suit the way he plays.”
Liam Livingstone still needs a little more time to get fit after his injury. “He’s met all the benchmarks they were hoping for from a physical perspective, obviously he’s a bit underdone running-wise. He’ll get an opportunity to do that in Australia, but all the reports are he’s going well. He should be fit for the start of the World Cup.”
Harry Brook will probably slot in at No 5. Mott picked out him and Ben Duckett as the two players of the series. “The way Brook and Duckett played was a real shining light. Brook has been starved of cricket for a bit, he’s watched a lot from the sidelines, so he just sees this opportunity. I think he looked right at home in that pivotal role at five, which is quite difficult.
“He couldn’t have done any more to push his case in this series. To me, batting at five is about as hard as it gets, but whatever the situation was he always looked like he had a plan. That came out quite clearly. For a young player to be so clear in such a tricky role showed a lot.”
As for Duckett, “the way he played spin earlier in the series just set the tone in what could have been some really difficult overs, rather than us just getting through it we prospered and thrived.”
Duckett is not part of the World Cup squad and has a short holiday booked in Mexico instead. But after that he is hoping for a call-up to the Test team when they come back here in December. The cricket carousel never stops for long.