Matthew Mott, England’s limited-overs coach, has challenged fringe batters to score “a mountain of runs” in the Hundred to push for T20 World Cup selection and insisted that “no one has a mortgage on a spot”.
England will have picked a preliminary World Cup squad by the time they play their next men’s T20I series, a seven-match marathon in Pakistan in late September, and after winning only two of their six fixtures against India and South Africa this summer, there are several positions up for grabs.
“Can players come in? Absolutely they can. If they’re in form, coming off runs, and we go to Pakistan and they do well,” Mott said. “[We need to] use that Hundred as a real springboard to get that confidence back across the entire group.”
“My message to everyone in our dressing room would be that I want you to be the guy who is the best player in your team and showcase your talent. Last year Liam Livingstone was the MVP [Most Valuable Player] and has ridden that wave ever since. The guys in our dressing room have the opportunity to go on that kind of journey.
“Every game is on TV, every game will have a big crowd and that should be exciting. If you can perform to a high-level in those situations, that replicates international cricket and replicates World Cups. It’s probably the best thing for everyone in the group.”
“That’s the one that we, as a selection group, really need to thrash out,” Mott said. “When you’ve been a great player and you’ve delivered great things on a big stage, I think you deserve a bit of loyalty. You get some currency from having delivered on the big stage.
“But at certain times, hard decisions need to be made, and young players come in and add energy. Those two players are on the sidelines and they’re chomping at the bit for a game. I think that’s really healthy. They’ve now got an opportunity to go back to the Hundred, get a mountain of runs, keep putting pressure on.
“No one in the team has mortgage on a spot. I think the nature of cricket suggests that at different times, players come in and out of form. There’s a bit of science behind it, but there’s also a bit of gut feeling. You try and breed confidence in a playing group: if you stick more than you flick, then you’re a better chance of breeding that confidence.”
As a result, they will be watching several bowlers closely, not least Luke Wood, David Payne, Mills (left out of the South Africa series due to a toe injury) and Tom Curran, who will make his return from injury at Oval Invincibles. They will also hope that a back-up spin option emerges after Matt Parkinson struggled against India, with Jake Lintott and Benny Howell – a self-described “fast-spinner” – among the candidates who could emerge from left field.
Will Jacks, James Vince and countless other batters could push for selection with a strong Hundred, but the one player guaranteed to return to the side if fit is Ben Stokes, who Mott suggested was an option to bat in the top four. Stokes has mainly been used as a finisher in T20Is by England but is increasingly seen as a top-order option, and his return could squeeze Roy out of the side.
“Obviously Stokesy comes back in to that team,” Mott said. “When you add players like Stokes into any team, it makes selection a hell of a lot easier. You’ve basically got a free hit with the balance of your team – and that’s clearly something that has probably been missed by a few people. Having a world-class bowler that bats in the top four is a huge asset to any team.
“There’s the seven games [in Pakistan] and I’m sure we’ll be changing our team around a little bit there, and then we’ll get that chemistry right when we take on Australia and then play three T20s. They’ll be the big games leading into that World Cup for us and we’ll have a bit more of an idea of where we’re at as a team at that stage.
“I think a lot of people reflect back on the past about how great a team this is. This is a very different unit at the moment. We need to acknowledge that and make sure we live in the present and work on what we can get better at. I think Jos is really honest about where we need to go.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98