Chris Silverwood has acclaimed England’s performance in emphatically routing the much-fancied defending champions West Indies in the opening game of their Twenty20 World Cup campaign as the most ruthless of his two years as head coach. But he promised that he will not let his side get light-headed on the heady fumes of victory or allow their focus to become clouded by memories of a record-breaking success.
The scale of England’s victory is illustrated by the fact that West Indies’ total of 55 was the second-lowest in their history and the third-lowest in the history of the T20 World Cup – only Netherlands, twice, have fared worse. There was only one West Indies batsman who reached double figures, and their second-highest partnership was eight. It was also the first time England had won, or West Indies had lost, a T20 with more than half their innings to spare. “It’s a great start, one that everyone dreams of,” Silverwood said.
“At no point did I see us take a step backwards and think: ‘Well this is all just falling into place now, we’ll just let it play out.’ What I saw was just a relentless push all the time. It was really good to watch that ruthless streak come out.
“We’ve had teams before 34-3, 40-3 in the powerplay and maybe not pushed as hard as we could, but what I saw on Saturday was that ruthless streak – the way we went about it, the discipline of the bowlers, and I thought that was backed up fantastically well by some very good catching.”
England play their second game against Bangladesh on Wednesday, with matches against Australia, Sri Lanka and South Africa still to come in the Super 12s. “What we can’t do is expect to turn up at the next game and everything just fall into place again,” Silverwood said.
“We’ve got to be prepared that at some point we’re going to have a tough challenge, somebody is going to get the better of us. We’ve got to keep our feet on the ground and start again. We’ve got to assume the next game won’t be as easy because the chances are it won’t.
“That’s the message I’ll be passing on during training on Monday – it’s one win, that’s brilliant, great to get the points in the bag and get that net run rate up, but it’s a start, that’s just what it is. We’ve got some stiff opposition coming up and we know it’s not always going to go our way. It’s a case of doing all the good things, making sure we focus on what we do well. Let’s make sure we do that, and then we’ll take some living with.”
However well they play there will not be many occasions when so many of England’s plans bear fruit – four bowlers took wickets in their first overs, while for the first time in T20s Moeen Ali used up his full allocation in an unbroken spell at the start of the innings. It was Moeen who set the tone, restricting scoring chances while taking the key wickets of Lendl Simmons and Shimron Hetmyer. The all-rounder suggested after the game that one of the reasons he had been chosen to open the bowling was that “I wasn’t as nervous as some of the other guys”, but Silverwood said he had seen little evidence of anyone getting overcome by pre-match tension.
“It was more excitement than anything. We were all waiting outside the coach [thinking]: ‘We’re going to get on now, first game, here we go after all the preparation we’ve done.’ I don’t think it was nerves in a bad way, I think it was nerves in a really good way,” he said. “The guys were really excited just to crack on. West Indies are a dangerous team, we knew we were going to have to be on the best of our form to try to match them.”
Perhaps the only England player whose confidence might not have rocketed over the course of Saturday night is Dawid Malan, who from his nominal position of three was bumped ever further down the order in the belief that others could score the necessary runs more speedily, and was still to bat when victory was secured with England 56 for four.
“He was fine about it,” Silverwood said. “It’s common knowledge that we want flexibility in that batting line-up – we saw an opportunity to get that run rate up and we took it. We wanted to get the runs as quickly as possible to potentially give us a buffer zone later down the line. That’s why we did it, and everyone’s fine with that.”
Though Malan averages 43.2 in T20Is, with a strike rate of 139, he is seen as a player who can potentially knit an innings together without extreme risk-taking like, for example, Steve Smith does for Australia, or Joe Root did for England at the 2016 T20 World Cup. “That’s exactly the reason why he’s in there – he can act like a glue for us,” Silverwood said. “We have a lot of power around him and just because we decided to go for power on this occasion, on other days we wouldn’t.”