A lot has changed in the seven years since England last played a World Cup match in Adelaide.
Back in 2015, they were largely useless at white-ball cricket, emphasised by a group-stage exit at the 50-over World Cup being confirmed with a 15-run defeat by Bangladesh in South Australia.
But England head to the aesthetic Adelaide Oval for Thursday’s T20 World Cup semi-final against India – build-up from 7am on Sky Sports Cricket ahead of an 8am start – as a side to be reckoned with, perhaps one even to be feared. Since that meek surrender against Bangladesh, there has been a white-ball revolution.
The final of the 2016 T20 World Cup. The semi-finals of the 2017 Champions Trophy. Winners of the 2019 50-over World Cup. Semi-finalists in last year’s T20 World Cup. The timidity of 2015 has since been replaced by a ‘go harder’ approach and yielded results.
“We’ve actually just been talking about that (Bangladesh game) in the dressing room,” said captain Jos Buttler, whose 65 from 52 deliveries against the Tigers seven years ago came in vain as England were dismissed for 260 in a chase of 276.
“Anytime you go back to certain grounds, there’s some memories and not always good ones, unfortunately. It was a real line-in-the-sand moment in English white-ball cricket and to be now in a semi-final and going to tournaments with a level of expectation that we should perform well is a great place to be.
“It’s been clear to see the change in mindset of English cricket towards the white-ball game and especially the way we’ve played.
“It’s given us better results. That gives us a lot of trust in that process that it works. It seems an ingrained way of playing now in English cricket. It’s been a fantastic journey to be involved in.”
Stokes: England won’t take a backward step
England’s marked improvement in the limited-overs formats was started by former captain Eoin Morgan and has been continued in Australia over recent weeks by Buttler, who became permanent white-ball skipper in late June following Morgan’s retirement.
There have been a few instances in this tournament of England reverting to the hesitant side that stuttered their way through the 2015 World Cup, just as there were in the home summer when they failed to win a white-ball series.
Buttler’s side spluttered with the bat as they beat Afghanistan in their T20 World Cup opener in Perth and then barely played a shot in anger for much of the innings against Ireland as they suffered a rain-affected defeat at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
However, they were back to their aggressive and clinical best against New Zealand the next time they were able to take the field and all-rounder Ben Stokes – whose cerebral 42 from 36 balls against Sri Lanka on Saturday dragged England into the semi-finals after a middle-order batting collapse – insists his side will not be “cautious” against India in Thursday’s semi-final.
Stokes said: “We’re in a position now that it’s do or die. What I don’t think anyone will do is take a backward step.
“We talk a lot about how we want to play when it comes to pressure moments and what we’ll see here is us trying to deliver on what we talk about, not taking the cautious option.
“We had a few up and down moments in the group stage but we can forget about those now. We know if we execute anywhere near where we want to be then we will be a very hard team to beat.”
Injuries could be an issue for England
England may not be cautious, then, but they could be depleted.
Usual No 3 batter Dawid Malan looks unlikely to play due to a groin injury sustained while fielding against Sri Lanka on Saturday, while fast bowler Mark Wood is suffering from general body stiffness which has hampered his ability to train over the last two days.
Wood’s absence would be a huge blow for England and a big boost for India, who are aiming to reach a World Cup final for the first time in eight years.
Phil Salt is Malan’s likely replacement and is set to slot in at first drop despite Stokes playing his key innings from that spot against Sri Lanka, while Chris Jordan would probably come in for Wood.
Jordan might even come in anyway if England want an extra bowler. If they do, Harry Brook would seem vulnerable having only reached double figures once in four knocks in the middle order.
As for India, the fact this game is being played on a used surface and may have a subcontinental feel could give them a lift – but so will the form of Suryakumar Yadav, a thoroughly-modern batter who scores freely, quickly and regularly all around the ground with a glittering array of strokes.
‘Suryakumar doesn’t carry extra baggage’
In 2022, India’s No 4 has 1,026 T20 international runs at a strike-rate of 186.54. In this World Cup, he has 225 at a strike-rate of 193.96. He’s probably eyeing up those short, square Adelaide Oval boundaries as you read this.
India skipper Rohit Sharma said of Suryakumar: “He’s the sort of guy who just doesn’t carry any baggage. He’s got lots of suitcases – honestly, he loves his shopping – but when it comes to carrying extra pressure, extra baggage, I don’t think he has that in him.”
India as a team might, though. It has been 11 years since they delivered their cricket-mad fans a World Cup – the 50-over version on home soil in 2011 – with knockout-stage defeats coming in the 2014 and 2016 T20 World Cups and the 2015 and 2019 50-over World Cups.
India are favourites and victory would set up a mouth-watering meeting with Pakistan at the MCG on Sunday, three weeks after Rohit’s men beat Babar Azam’s in a last-ball thriller at the ground.
But England have a chance to fully right the wrongs of the last World Cup in Australia by winning this one. It’s Adelaide on Thursday and, they will hope, Melbourne on Sunday.
Watch England’s T20 World Cup semi-final against India live on Sky Sports Cricket on Thursday. An hour-long build-up begins at 7am ahead of an 8am start at Adelaide Oval.