If a nervy performance in their final game of the Super 12s did not exactly strike fear into India, who were confirmed as England’s semi-final opponents on Sunday, Jos Buttler’s side did prove something in beating Sri Lanka to make it to the knockout stages. After sticking too rigidly to pre-match plans in their first two matches, the last two games forced upon them a more freewheeling and successful approach – and now they may need to rip up their tactics again.
“They got off like a train but good teams respond well, and I think we responded well,” Mark Wood said of his side’s four-wicket win on Saturday. “The tale of the game was that spin was always going to be hard, and could the pace either get wickets or restrict? That was different to the last game, and if the Adelaide pitch is different we’ll have to adapt there as well. You’ve got to be fluid in your team, in selection, in orders and bowling lineups. You don’t want to be a one-trick pony.”
England will probably need to tweak their team for Thursday’s semi-final, having picked the same XI in every game so far. They will discover the severity of Dawid Malan’s groin injury on Monday, but the discomfort had not subsided and four days out he seems unlikely to play.
The question is whether to pick a direct replacement in Phil Salt, an aggressive top-order batter who Wood reported to be “chomping at the bit”, or bring in Chris Jordan, a brilliant fielder whose bowling will add to the team’s death-over flexibility and can contribute with the bat lower down the order.
Maybe two places should be up for grabs given the form of Harry Brook, averaging 8.16 at fractionally more than a run a ball across six innings since arriving in Australia. Of course form can change swiftly – Ben Stokes was averaging 9.80 at precisely a run a ball before he scored 42 to guide the side to victory on Saturday – but then England’s Test captain is a special case.
“I know people have questioned him but when you need him he stands up,” Wood said of Stokes. “That’s another moment in his career that you can say when the team needed him, he was the man to be counted on.”
If England, beaten semi-finalists last year, are to improve on that this time there will surely be more of those moments to come.