As England’s selectors turn their minds to the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 competition in September, Darren Gough believes it is imperative that England give a belated chance to a handful of Twenty20 specialists.
The selectors meet on Tuesday before announcing a 30-man preliminary squad for the global 20-over tournament, having opted not to select any specialists for the two Twenty20 matches against West Indies last month.
Instead, they used the players who had been picked for the 50-over one-day internationals that followed, which Gough believes was a mistake.
“There aren’t that many Twenty20 specialists around, but there are a few who can play Twenty20 and wouldn’t get in the one-day international team,” Gough said. “We shouldn’t be afraid to play them.”
Speaking at Old Trafford, where the Roses match was washed out for a second consecutive day, the Yorkshire captain cited Mal Loye, the Lancashire opener, as one player whose specialist skills could enhance England’s batting in 20-over cricket. Loye played seven one-day internationals in Australia last winter, introducing his remarkable slog-sweep off quick bowlers to a wider audience, but has since been disregarded by the national selectors.
As an opening batsman who looks to capitalise on the fielding restrictions in the first six overs of an innings, Loye averaged 74.33 as Lancashire qualified for the quarter-finals of this season’s Twenty20 Cup.
“Mal Loye is a perfect example,” Gough said. “Most teams have their fine-leg and their third man up [in the circle] in the first few overs and his sweep makes him hard to bowl at. The first six overs are critical in Twenty20 cricket and the successful counties make the most of those overs. I’d like to see England go down the route that successful county teams have. Mal is definitely the hardest batsman I’ve bowled at in Twenty20 cricket.”
As well as Loye, Gough nominated Darren Maddy, of Warwickshire, and Mark Pettini, of Essex, as players who could be included in England’s 30-man squad, which will be reduced to a 15-man party on August 11. In particular, he points out that county cricketers have much more experience of the shorter format than England’s regular international players.
“The problem is that most of the England guys have hardly played any Twenty20 cricket, maybe only two games a year,” he said. “Some of these guys have played 40 or 50 games. You need that sort of experience.”
As England’s leading wicket-taker in one-day cricket, Gough is highly qualified to talk on the specialist skills employed in the Twenty20 game, especially the use of the new ball and the crucial "death" overs at the end of an innings. These are areas in which England have struggled recently in one-day cricket, a problem that Gough attributes to the uniformity of actions among younger bowlers.
“Most of the bowlers these days are taught to bowl with a similar action,” he said. “Once the coaches get hold of them, they all bowl the same way. They’re obviously trying to prevent injury, but they’ve got to be able to bowl yorkers, bouncers and slower balls and sometimes the natural way is the best way.”
The bad weather at Old Trafford has disrupted the plans of Michael Vaughan and Matthew Hoggard to prepare for England's Test series against India, which begins a week on Thursday. As the Yorkshire pair have not played since June 19, further rain over the next two days could mean that they also play for their county in the championship match against Warwickshire. That game begins on Friday and could finish on Monday, just three days before the start of the first Test.
The ECB’s initial plan had been for them to play the Roses match and then to rest until they resumed international duties.