England take on USA with eye on T20 World Cup semi-final

england take on usa with eye on t20 world cup semi-final

Harry Brook hit a half-century against South Africa. Photograph: Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

The next 48 hours are a bit of a logistical head scratcher for England but the task at hand back in familiar Barbados on Sunday is straightforward. They meet USA, the co-hosts and associates who pilfered Pakistan’s intended spot in the Super Eights and, according to Harry Brook, they are looking to “give them a good battering”.

This may read like trash talk before a big fight in Las Vegas but Brook looked like he had just stepped out of a boxing ring when he said it. It followed Friday’s tense seven-run defeat by South Africa in the sweltering daytime heat of Saint Lucia, with Brook sat in the sweaty press conference tent, adrenaline still flowing from his near-miss in the run chase, and offering up some good old Yorkshire plain-speak.

“We’ve got to win [against USA] and then obviously see how we are on net run-rate,” said Brook, simply grateful to be out of the harsh sun. “But the main thing is to definitely get that win. We’ve played in Barbados quite a lot the last six months or so. So we know the conditions, the wind and the pitch as well. So hopefully we can go out there and give them a good battering.”

As it happens, a battering is not actually needed to make the semi-finals. West Indies dishing one out to the Americans on Friday night means their final match against South Africa in Antigua on Sunday is practically a straight shootout for a spot in the top two.

England can slip through with the winner of that quasi-quarter-final via net run-rate, provided they beat USA by (roughly) more than 10 runs or a chase knocked off without going to the wire. If the game is a washout - the forecast of 50% rain makes it possible - England would need South Africa to beat West Indies that night.

South Africa will top this second Super Eight group outright on six points if they record a seventh straight win but could also lose and go out with a tournament record of won six, lost one. Set against what would be a possible England record of won four, lost two and a no-result, Aiden Markram and his men would have cause to feel a bit miffed. The problem for the Proteas in this scenario is their initial 18-run victory over the USA in St Vincent during the week was not enough of a battering.

Another complication follows. Whichever two teams are thrown up in whatever order, neither will know their next port of call for a further 24 hours. The semi-finals are being played in Trinidad on Wednesday night and Guyana a day later, with India guaranteed to play the latter if they progress because of its morning start is prime time viewing for their lucrative television audience back home. This is inked into the tournament playing regulations under article 16.10.6 (not that the reason why is specified).

As such, where India finish on that side of the draw - their final match is against Australia in Saint Lucia on Monday morning - is the keystone to the whole knockout stage. If India finish top, the second-placed team in England’s group will join them; finish second and it will be against the highest-placed team. In cricket, the sporting integrity of a tournament is happily trumped by money. Everyone just nods along.

While USA are already out of the running, expecting England to simply sweep them aside in a capricious format like T20 is dangerous talk. Just ask the broadcasters, who have Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Ramiz Raja on their commentary roster in Bridgetown this weekend. All three are perfectly good neutral observers but were bookings made on the assumption that Pakistan would be here, rather than back at home and seemingly involved in an almighty bun fight regarding that first round exit.

That said, it may be an American side which dared to dream, lit up opening night with that six-fest from Aaron Jones against Canada, pulled off a shock against Pakistan to rank among the most famous in history, and delivered some magical personal moments along the way, is possibly running out of steam. Either way, their presence in this round, which comes with qualification for the next T20 World Cup in 2026, has justified the 20-team format. The associates are closing the gap.

And England? They remain a tricky side to pin down, with two defeats from their three games against full member opposition but having also taken apart Oman and Namibia in a manner to suggest their confidence at chasing down 109 in 10 overs against Scotland - a match thwarted by the rain - was not unmerited.

Against South Africa it can be said they got selection wrong on that slow surface - Mark Wood not appearing until the 14th over a tacit admission of this - and their fourth powerplay in six without a wicket (including the shortened game against Namibia) remains a problem area.

Yet right now, despite sitting third in their Super Eight group and with an inferior tournament record overall when compared to the top two, they are arguably the best placed. What a daft sport.

USA (possible): Steven Taylor, Andries Gous (w), Nitish Kumar, Aaron Jones (c), Corey Anderson, Milind Kumar, Harmeet Singh, Shadley van Schalkwyk, Nosthush Kenjige, Ali Khan, Saurabh Netravalkar

England (possible): Phil Salt, Jos Buttler(w/c), Harry Brook, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Liam Livingstone, Sam Curran, Chris Jordan, Jofra Archer, Adil Rashid, Reece Topley

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