With England posting their second highest ever T20 total of 221/5 yesterday in their 28-run win over Australia, many plaudits are coming this England team’s way with many calling them the country’s best ever limited overs side. I thought it would be interesting to see what the statistics make of that claim and see how many of that current side would make it into England’s best ever T20 side, based solely on who has taken the most wickets or scored the most runs.
Alex Hales (1,505 runs)
Nottinghamshire opener Alex Hales is England’s second highest run scorer in T20 history with 1,505 runs in his 53 innings. The 29-year-old is one of the most destructive batsman in the world on his day and is the only Englishman to have hit an international T20 hundred, scoring 116* off 64 balls against Sri Lanka in the 2014 World T20. Hales has also reached the nineties twice in T20s for England, getting heartbreakingly dismissed for 99 against the West Indies in 2012 and dispatching Australia for 94 in 2013. All in all, Hales is definitely deserving of his place in England’s best ever T20 XI.
Jos Buttler (1,130 runs, 24 dismissals)
Wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler opened for the Rajasthan Royals in this year’s IPL with great success, scoring 548 runs in 13 innings at an average of 54.80, a strike-rate of 155.24 and passing 50 five times. To put that in context, Buttler scored more runs in the 2018 IPL than he did in the 2017 and 2016 editions of the competition put together. His form for Rajasthan prompted acting T20 Coach Paul Farbrace to promote him to the top of the order in yesterday’s win over Australia and Buttler’s 61 off 30 balls made him England’s highest scorer and his half-century was England’s fastest in that format, proving Farbrace right and giving him the other opening spot in our team. Buttler is one of only four Englishman to pass 1,000 T20 runs and also has the most T20 dismissals as a wicketkeeper for his country with 24, meaning he is certainly worthy of a place in this side as both a batsman and wicket-keeper.
Joe Root (778 runs)
Arguments can be made about whether or not Joe Root is a T20 player but for England, the numbers speak for themselves. The Test captain is England’s fifth highest T20 run-scorer, with 778 runs in just 24 innings at an average of 38.90 (the highest of any Englishman) and has a high score of 90* against Australia in 2013. He might not be the most destructive batsman in the world but players like Root and New Zealand’s Kane Williamson are showing that there is still a place for more nuanced touch stroke play in a form of the game which too often gets caught up in brute power and force. In this side, Root provides a nice change of pace to the other batsman and anchor the innings if need be.
Kevin Pietersen (1,176 runs)
Although Kevin Pietersen exited the international stage with England in controversial circumstances, there is no denying that he is one of the best and most destructive batsman that English cricket has ever seen. Pietersen is the first player in this side who is not a current member of the England T20 team but he is the third-highest run scorer in England’s T20 history, making 1,176 runs in just 36 innings. This means that out of the four Englishman to pass 1,000 T20 runs, Pietersen did so the quickest (albeit joint with Hales) in his 32nd innings, a feat which also makes him the joint second quickest in the world. The 38-year-old’s greatest exploits for his country in T20 cricket came in the 2010 World T20 where his 248 runs in six innings at an average of 62 saw him named player of the tournament as England won the competition. Again, no matter how controversial a personality he may have been, Pietersen is undoubtedly one of England’s most prolific T20 run machines and rightfully takes his place in their best XI.
Eoin Morgan (1,693 runs)
Perhaps the most obvious choice based on the statistics, Eoin Morgan is England’s leading run-scorer with 1,693, has their most half-centuries with 9 and has played in the most matches (73). Captain Morgan is one of the most inventive batsman England have ever had since he switched allegiances from his home country Ireland. However, despite the number of records Morgan holds to his name, perhaps the biggest impact he has had is not with the bat but as captain. Since taking over the reigns, Morgan has been responsible for a massive change in culture and attitude for England and that is what has made them into such a dangerous limited overs side. If we were to pick this side based on opinion, then he would get in for his captaincy exploits alone but since it is on runs scored and wickets taken it is his 1,693 runs which makes him the first name on the teamsheet.
Ravi Bopara (711 runs)
Now we get on to the more surprising selections. Ravi Bopara played 38 T20 games for England between 2008 and 2014 and scored 711 runs but the unquestionably talented performer never quite fulfilled his potential and, in the words of ESPN Cricinfo, “was a regular member of the England set-up for several years without ever making himself indispensable”. Although in this side statistics-wise because of his 711 runs for England, Bopara’s canny medium-pace was another big part of his game and in his England T20 career, the 33-year-old took a respectable 16 wickets at an average of 24.18, including the best ever figures by an Englishman against the West Indies in 2011 where he took 4/10. Bopara has also played all around the world in multiple T20 tournaments, such as the Big Bash, PSL and IPL, proving that he certainly is a more than useful T20 operator, even if a surprise inclusion in England’s best ever T20 XI. Ultimately though, Bopara is a full 128 runs ahead of the next highest run-scorer, securing him his place. Although, you would have to think it will not be long until guys like Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow surpass him.
Luke Wright (759 runs)
Sussex’s Luke Wright played 51 T20s for England, no mean feat on its own given that his international career was one year shorter than Pietersen’s and he played 14 games more. In those 51 games, Wright batted 45 times, scoring 759 runs and passed 50 four times, including an excellent not out 99 off 55 balls against Afghanistan in the 2012 World T20. Like Bopara, Wright’s medium-pace is more than useful and took 18 wickets at an average of 25.83 in T20s for England, giving Wright another string to his bow. Wright has also played T20 cricket around the world, with his most prolific spell coming at Big Bash side Melbourne Stars. At the MCG, Wright scored 1,485 runs in 58 matches, including two hundreds and six fifties and was a resounding success for the Stars. Again, Wright is perhaps another surprise inclusion and it will not be long until his 759 runs for England is passed but at the moment, he is England’s sixth highest-scorer in T20s and rightfully in this side.
Chris Jordan (37 wickets)
Now we have the final member of England’s best ever T20 XI to be a current member of their T20 squad. Chris Jordan is one of the most successful T20 death bowlers in the world and is undoubtedly England’s best bowler of yorkers. The Sussex seamer has taken 37 wickets in his 31 games for England at an average of 26.75, with his best figures of 4/28 coming in England’s 2016 World T20 Super 10 clash against Sri Lanka. The Barbados born seamer has been accused of being too expensive in the opening overs of the innings which is probably the reason he has not played an ODI for England in two years but there is no doubting his ability at the end of an innings and it is this which has made him such a successful and in-demand bowler worldwide. Jordan has had spells in the Big Bash with the Adelaide Strikers, in the IPL with the Sunrisers Hyderabad and more recently the Royal Challengers Bangalore. As England’s fourth highest T20 wicket-taker, Jordan duly takes his place in the side and it seems inevitable that he will only continue to rise up those ranks in the coming years.
Stuart Broad (65 wickets)
Stuart Broad has not played a T20 for England in four years when it was decided that he should focus solely on prolonging his Test match career but Broad is still England’s leading T20 wicket-taker, taking 65 scalps at an average of 22.93. Perhaps surprisingly, out of everyone who has ever bowled in a T20 for England, Broad has done it the most, in 55 of his 56 matches. The next best bowler is spinner Graeme Swann who bowled in 38 of his 39 T20s. Although he will be primarily remembered as one of England’s best ever Test bowlers in his partnership with Jimmy Anderson, Broad can still be a canny operator in the shorter formats, despite turning his back on T20s in 2014 and ODIs in 2016. Most recently, Broad joined Big Bash side Hobart Hurricanes and grew into his spell with the side after a slow start, proving he still has what it takes at the highest level in T20s. However, it is his 65 wickets taken between 2006 and 2016 that he is in this side for.
Graeme Swann (51 wickets)
Speaking of Graeme Swann, England’s best spinner in recent memory is also their second-highest wicket-taker in T20s. Swann played a key role in England’s 2010 World T20 triumph, ending the tournament as it’s third-highest wicket taker with 10. Much like Broad, Swann is more recognised for his Test match exploits where he is England’s second-highest wicket taking spinner and sixth-highest overall but his attacking style of offspin fit perfectly with T20 cricket. Swann was always looking to take wickets and, with batsman more likely to attack him in the game’s shortest format, Swann became a dangerous asset for England, as shown by the 51 wickets he took which give him his place in this side.
Jade Dernbach (39 wickets)
Jade Dernbach made 34 appearances for England in T20s and is their third-highest wicket-taker with 39 at an average of 26.15. The 32-year-old has every skill imaginable for a T20 bowler, an infamous back-of-the-hand slower ball, bouncers, yorkers and the ability to touch 90mph. However, his greatest strength may in fact be a weakness for Dernbach as his tendency to utilise all his tricks was overused at times and his T20 economy rate of 8.71 was one of the worst in world cricket at the time. Despite his expensive tendencies, Dernbach has always picked up wickets and, now Surrey’s captain in the T20 Blast, it is his 39 T20 wickets which give him his place in this side.