Towards the end of Sunday’s second T20 against West Indies at Bridgetown, Eoin Morgan and Paul Collingwood, England’s captain and coach, one on the pitch and another on the bench, endured a similar experience: balls being pummelled high over their heads and lightbulbs going off in them.
As New Zealand demonstrated in the T20 World Cup semi-final in November and West Indies re-emphasised, when from a near-impossible position they flayed the bowling to such an extent that they ended up losing by one run, England’s death bowling is an issue, and one to which they have themselves contributed. Morgan has deliberately sheltered his side from the pressures of defending a total, having not chosen to bat first since September 2016. But on Tuesday Collingwood said that approach has now changed.
“We need to improve our death bowling and death bowling really only gets tested under serious pressure when you’re bowling second and you’re trying to defend a total,” he said. “In the last four or five years, whenever we’ve won the toss we’ve batted second and we’re very good at that. [But] if you’re going into World Cups, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got all bases covered.
“You’ve got that balance as coaches, as players, of you want to win games of cricket – and you’ve also got the pressure of supporters wanting you to win games. The one thing about Eoin Morgan is he’s willing to lose games to better the side and have those experiences. It was evident in that World Cup semi-final it was an area we really hadn’t been pressed on too much.
“Playing [last summer] against Sri Lanka and Pakistan, we probably had one instance when we were under serious pressure with that. So if we can put ourselves in those positions it’s going to be better for us later in the year.
“The simple thing is we’ve got to make sure we put these guys under the pump. If you can win along the way then it’s a huge bonus, but the most important thing is you get them into these situations.”
With so many of the World Cup squad absent here because of their subsequent involvement in the Ashes, the only player to bowl at the crucial moments of both matches is Chris Jordan, whose final over twice cost 23.
“CJ gives you a lot in other parts of the game,” Collingwood said. “He’s the perfect kind of T20 cricketer. But that death bowling is something we need to improve. If we get it right this is a very formidable side.”
More positively, Jordan is unexpectedly basking in the position of being the leading run-scorer with 55 while Adil Rashid has faced 21 balls, more than in 35 matches in the past three years combined.
“CJ and Rash have been put under scenarios where they’ve got to go out and face more balls than three, which is usually what they get a chance to do,” Collingwood said. “That’s another learning moving forward, having the confidence that these guys can come in and have good strike-rates at the back end.”
Having used 12 players in the first two games Collingwood promised “there will be changes” for Wednesday’s match. One of those could be Liam Livingstone, who is close to recovering from oesophagitis – the painful inflammation of the lower throat – and having trained on Tuesday should be available for selection.
“He’s confident, he’s box office, we all desperately want to see him play,” said Collingwood. “I’m an England fan as much as I am a coach and we all desperately want to see him go about his business.”