England are the World Twenty20 champions but they may struggle to retain their title with India, Australia and South Africa all fancied ahead of Paul Collingwood's men.
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The World Twenty20 is now less than two months away and the teams are fine-tuning their preparations for the event. England are the defending champions but do they have what it takes to win back-to-back titles? (England 6/1 -Tournament Outright)
England looked to have a decent T20 unit two years ago but, under the guidance of Paul Collingwood, upped their game to win their first major one-day trophy with a resounding victory over Australia in the final.
Kevin Pietersen was the star for Colly’s men but, unless there is a change of heart over the next few weeks, he will not be on the plane to Sri Lanka in September.
The South African-born batsman wants to play but, due to ECB regulations, he cannot be picked unless he makes himself available for the 50-over game as well.
The simple solution would be for KP to say he is available to play ODI cricket and then the selectors opt not to pick him but that skulduggery is unlikely to happen.
There is no doubt that coach Andy Flower would like to have him in the side as it was clear at the Oval on Thursday just how he can change the course of a game, as he made a mockery of the way in which Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott had been playing with a rapid 42 in testing conditions (England 3/1, South Africa 3/1, draw 8/13 – Match Prices)
England are not favourites to win this year’s event, with India (4/1), Australia (9/2) and South Africa (5/1) all ahead of them in the market, while a resurgent Sri Lankan side are also priced at 6/1.
But they are not without hope and have players who can carry on the good work from 2010.
Alex Hales looks a good find and, despite an obvious leg-side bias, should do well, while Craig Kieswetter is a potent threat at the top of the order and provides some balance with his ability to keep wicket.
Eoin Morgan is the trump card, however, as the shortest format seems tailor-made for the Irishman.
He never seems to panic and can play a game of patience with deft little flicks and reverse sweeps, while also possessing the ability to hit the ball out of the park.
Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler are the young guns who should go into the tournament with a fearless attitude and there is certainly enough experience in the bowling department to help the youngsters through, with skipper Stuart Broad joined by James Anderson, Tim Bresnan, Steve Finn and Jade Dernbach in the squad.
While the final 15 has yet to be decided the provisional 30-man squad includes Sussex all-rounder Luke Wright, who appears to have unfinished business at international level.
He has shown glimpses of his talent over the years without fulfilling his potential and, if given a chance, the T20 World Cup might be the right stage for him to prove he can still mix it with the big boys.
He is a better player than he was a few years ago and, while still possessing the ability to hit a ‘long ball’, plays a few more orthodox shots and has lost the tag of a ’slogger’.
Due to the nature of 20-over cricket, any side can ‘get hot’ during the event and claim the title and England have as good a chance as anyone of winning.
South Africa have never really embraced the format, while the Aussies are still a side in transition in all forms of the game, with a lack of top-class batsmen coming through to compliment their array of talented young pacemen.
India have a very strong side, with big-hitters and an attack that knows how to bowl in sub-continental conditions, and with all the experience that their stars have taken from the IPL, it seems right that they have been installed as favourites.
But do not discount the hosts, as Sri Lanka are back in business after a few years in the doldrums, while the West Indies might be the surprise team after the return of the incredible Chris Gayle.
Gayle’s ability to whack the ball to all parts means they can never be discounted in any 20-over game and, together with Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo, he will always give his side a chance of chasing down any total
It will be difficult for England to defend their title, as they traditionally struggle in Asia, but a Pietersen U-turn might be all they need to lift the trophy once again.