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T20 World Cup: England "third favourites" to win trophy despite mixed group stage

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Sports Mole speaks to Steven Finn about England's chances at the T20 World Cup following a mixed group stage in which they scraped through ahead of Scotland.

England have been touted as "third favourites" to go all the way and win the T20 World Cup this summer by former bowler Steven Finn.

The defending champions went through an up-and-down group stage campaign which included two heavily rain-affected matches, a chastening defeat to Australia and a record-breaking hammering of Oman.

At one stage it looked as though England might crash out at the first hurdle, having seen their opener with Scotland rained off before losing to Australia by 36 runs in their second match.

That left England facing two must-win games back to back, and they stepped up to the challenge by dismantling Oman by eight wickets in their third game - a result which not only gave them crucial points, but also vastly improved their run-rate.

A 41-run win over Namibia then followed - although not without some weather-induced tension - before England's place in the Super 8s was confirmed when Australia rallied to beat Scotland in the final group game.

Jofra Archer celebrates an England wicket against Australia in June 2024.© Reuters

England could be peaking at the right time

England's convincing defeat at the hands of Australia suggested that they are some way off the level of the very best in their bid to become the first team to ever retain the trophy, and also the first to win it three times.

However, Finn, who took 27 wickets in 21 T20 internationals for his country, believes that suffering such a bad loss so early in the tournament could end up proving to be a positive, as long as England are able to peak at the right time.

"They'll have been disappointed with those first two games. The game against Scotland, losing it to the rain when it looked like Scotland were in a really good position, I think would have left a lot of questions unanswered for us watching it because you felt as though England could come back into the game, but you're just guessing at that stage," Finn told Sports Mole.

"And the defeat to Australia, I think was a tough one to take because England would have felt as though they were the better team on paper going into that game. But they got bashed by Australia in those first five overs. But what I think it will have done, those first two losses, I think it steels their mind to know what they need to do in those power play overs in order to be successful.

"They changed their team in the third game; Reece Topley came in, who's a specialist power play bowler. He doesn't really bowl elsewhere in the innings. I think that the balance of their team looked far better because of that.

"I think that in a world tournament, you don't want to be peaking at the beginning. You want to be peaking as you're coming into the latter stages of it and to have got that bad loss out the way and then have played well in the subsequent games, I think will have given them a lot of confidence that they might be peaking at the right time."

England's Jos Buttler looks on on June 8, 2024© Reuters

England "third favourites" to win T20 World Cup

Despite such a mixed group stage, most bookmakers still have England as third favourites to lift the trophy, behind Australia and India, both of whom have qualified to Group 1 of the Super 8s.

England, meanwhile, are in Group 2 alongside South Africa and co-hosts West Indies and USA, the latter of whom have been a surprise package at this year's tournament.

Finn is particularly wary about the threat of South Africa and two-time T20 world champions West Indies, but he agrees that England should still be regarded amongst the favourites to go all the way.

"I would say that out of the teams that have come through to the group stage, you'd probably say England are third favourites. I think you've probably got Australia and India as one and two and then England. I would have us as the next best in that situation," Finn told Sports Mole.

"I think they've got a very good chance of doing it and I think that on their day that T20 cricket is all about performing in a really small window and one person having a day. I look up and down that line up and I see a lot of people who have got the ability to affect a game within five or six overs to really change the fortunes of the team.

"I think England are well poised, but I do think there are other good teams out there. South Africa are so dangerous. They're going to win a world tournament at some stage. They have to. They can't keep choking at semi-finals. So they're going to win a tournament at some stage, and you look at their team one to 11 and they've got almost everything covered that you would want in a T20 team.

"They've got pace. They've got power with the bat. They've got wrist spin, They've got good finger spin, they've got really athletic fielders. I see South Africa as really dangerous.

"And then you can just feel the atmosphere in the West Indies for the West Indies team in the Caribbean. Any time they're playing at home with their big superstar players Andre Russell and the like, then they're always going to be contenders in there as well.

"England have got a really tricky group to get through but you just hope that historical memories and good memories of this team doing well in previous tournaments in the last few years in those pressure moments will be able to carry them through."

England's Chris Jordan celebrates after taking the wicket of Australia's Tim David on June 8, 2024© Reuters

England must improve in power play bowling

In their group-stage win over England, Australia did most of their damage in the power play, blasting 70 without loss inside the first five overs to largely take the game away from England from the outset.

"I think against the bigger teams, it's going to be their power play bowling [which they need to improve]. I think their death bowling with Jofra Archer back in the mix is pretty good. Chris Jordan was selected as a death bowling option as well, if they choose to play him," Finn told Sports Mole.

"But it's that power play bowling where teams can get flyers in the games here, especially on better surfaces, teams can get away from you as Australia did in those first five overs.

"England being on their game, having Reece Topley as a specialist power play bowler with his left arm swing I think will leave England in better stead than they were in their first couple of games.

"So if England can tighten that up and continue to tighten that up, then again I see them as really big contenders in this tournament."

England's Jos Buttler reacts on June 8, 2024© Reuters

Elimination due to weather would have been tough to take

It was not just the result of the match which was hanging in the balance when the weather once again threatened their final group game against Namibia, but also England's continued participation in the tournament.

Had the match been rained off then England would have been eliminated despite only being able to play two of their games - something which would have represented an enormously anti-climactic end to their title defence.

As it happened, both sides managed to squeeze in enough overs for the result to be decided by the DLS method, which coupled with Scotland's later defeat to Australia saw England through by virtue of their superior run-rate, but Finn acknowledged that being eliminated mostly due to weather would be the worst-case scenario for Jos Buttler and his team.

"It's sort of part and parcel. But when you're playing in a world tournament and you're defending your title, the way that you would not want to go out is because it's hacked it down for two of your four group games. There'd have been a big sigh of relief by England in that game against Namibia," Finn told Sports Mole.

"When I was there, it was absolutely hacking down, and there would have been so much of the day where England would have thought that they weren't going to be playing the game whatsoever. They'll be delighted that they've ended up playing.

"I think if you play and you lose, it's a lot easier to take because you can understand where you went wrong and you can give reasons as to why you went out, whereas if you don't play and it's curtailed by rain, then you're just left guessing about where you're at as a team and I think this tournament is an opportunity for everyone to gauge where this England team is at.

"For them to have progressed through the group stage by the skin of their teeth, with some help from our old foes Australia, I think that England will feel as though coming into these middle stages of the tournament that they're in much better shape."

England's next match will come against in-form co-hosts West Indies in the early hours of Thursday morning, before taking on South Africa on Friday and USA on Sunday in their other two Super 8s fixtures.

Find out everything you need to know about the 2024 T20 World Cup, including fixtures and results, by clicking here.

Steven Finn was speaking to Sports Mole on behalf of BetVictor.

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England celebrate taking a wicket against Pakistan on May 25, 2024.
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