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England eager to get T20 bid under way

Sam Curran feels England are straining at the leash to start the T20 World Cup but Reece Topley has emerged as an injury scare ahead of their first match against Afghanistan.

England's Sam Curran bats during the fifth twenty20 cricket match between Pakistan and England, in Lahore, Pakistan, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary).
England's Sam Curran bats during the fifth twenty20 cricket match between Pakistan and England, in Lahore, Pakistan, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary).

Topley rolled his left ankle on a piece of advertisement foam on the boundary during some catching drills at Brisbane on Monday afternoon so he did not feature in their final warm-up against Pakistan.

England announced Topley ‘will be assessed throughout this week’ and are hopeful of a swift recovery, but they do have Tymal Mills and Richard Gleeson on standby if the issue proves to be more serious.

It is an unwanted headache for England as they travel to Perth to take on Afghanistan on Saturday, with Topley becoming an increasingly dependable figure in the white-ball ranks since the turn of the year.

The 6ft 7in left-arm seamer has taken 17 wickets in 16 T20s in 2022 and can bowl anywhere in an innings, with an economy rate of 7.8 impressive given he operates mainly in the powerplay at the death.

Curran and David Willey are England’s other left-armers in their 15-strong squad so they are unlikely to this weekend risk Topley, who has overcome multiple stress fractures in his back during his career.

Curran is expected to be in England’s XI against Afghanistan, irrespective of whether Topley features, and believes they are tracking well after an improvement in results recently following a disappointing summer.

England recorded a 4-3 win in Pakistan and then thrashed the same opponents by six wickets in a low-key practice match on Monday, having also beaten World Cup hosts and defending champions Australia 2-0.

“We’re definitely ready now,” Curran said.

“We’re feeling like we’re almost not peaking but we’re playing good cricket, (as shown in winning series against) Pakistan and Australia then this game.

“We’re really excited, hopefully with a couple of good training sessions in Perth, come the weekend we’ll be good.”

Curran, who was ruled out of last year’s World Cup a couple of weeks before it got under way with a stress fracture in his lower back, had some success against Australia bowling the 18th and 20th overs.

Renowned for his habit of being front and centre in the crucial moments of a game, Curran demonstrated his all-round ability with an unbeaten 33 off 14 balls against Pakistan on Monday.

Moved up to sixth in the order, one spot higher than where he is likely to bat against Afghanistan if he is selected, Curran showed he is quite adept at the finishing role with a cluster of boundaries.

While batting towards the end of an innings is regarded as one of the most difficult aspects to perfect in T20 cricket, Curran revealed he takes his cues from those above him.

“It’s very challenging but it’s just a role you’ve got to enjoy,” Curran said. “Guys like Moeen (Ali), (Liam) Livingstone, Harry Brook are experienced in that middle-over phase so they help me through it.

“You’ve got to train maybe in a certain way, (try to) predict what you’re going to face. You see the way Livi plays, he knows his role, he knows he’s going to come in and be attacking.

“There will be some days where it doesn’t work, some days where it does. We knew we could get something out of this game (against Pakistan) but the way we played was really impressive.”

While England go into the World Cup in buoyant mood after recent results, Curran warned against complacency given the first two days have already produced a couple of shocks, with Scotland upsetting the West Indies, the 2012 and 2016 champions, a day after Namibia stunned Asia Cup winners Sri Lanka.

“You take confidence from (winning) but at the same time, you’ve seen some of the results already at the World Cup,” Curran added. “It’s a T20 format, anything could happen.

“Afghanistan are a side that are extremely skilful, they’ve got a world-class players who can win you games by themselves. We know it’s going to be a really tough opening game.”

n Mark Watt would relish a showdown against England at Melbourne next week as Scotland’s slow left-armer insisted his side have 'unfinished business' at the T20 World Cup.

Scotland are basking in the afterglow of beating two-time champions the West Indies at Hobart and a win over Ireland today will all but guarantee their progress from their first-round group.

If Scotland miss out on top spot, the consolation in being runners-up is they would go into England’s Super 12s group and a battle of Britain would take place on October 26 at the 100,000-capacity MCG. Watt said with a smile: “I’d love that. I didn’t know that was the case, so yeah, I’ll take second now.”

Scotland shocked many by clearing the first hurdle last year, overcoming Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea and Oman, but they lost every game at the Super 12s stage and Watt is keen to correct the record.

“I’d love to be able to replicate what we did last year and get through to the proper group stages,” he said. “We’ve got unfinished business at this tournament. We know last year we didn’t play our best game at all. We’ve still not done that.

“Even though we’ve just beaten the West Indies, we haven’t played our best cricket yet, and we’ve got one to prove. That’s kind of the main focus just now.”

Watt, who took three for 12 against the Windies, admitted Scotland are still “buzzing” from a 42-run victory at a chilly Bellerive Oval in what was just their third T20 since last year’s World Cup.

Ireland, by contrast, must dust themselves off quickly after starting their campaign with a 31-run defeat against Zimbabwe

All-rounder George Dockrell said: “These games come so quick. You have to try and pick up as much as you can from the loss. Obviously it’s not ideal, it’s not how you want to start the competition.

“We’ve got two games over the next four days, and it’s our job to come out and give it absolutely everything, and that’s what we’ll be doing.”

Despite initially bursting on to the scene as a talented left-arm spinner, Dockrell is only called upon sporadically to bowl in T20s for Ireland these days, instead deployed as a middle-order batter.

But the 30-year-old would be happy to turn his arm over if asked, adding: “I’ll always be ready to bowl. I’ll keep chipping away in training and make sure I’m ready if a chance comes.”

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