England keeping T20 World Cup places open for Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer

By Sports Desk December 20, 2023

Matthew Mott suspects the bulk of England’s squad in the Caribbean will return to the region for the T20 World Cup next year – but places will be kept open for Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer.

Stokes is convalescing from surgery to a longstanding left knee problem and the England Test captain hopes to return to full all-rounder status in 2024, having functioned as a specialist batter recently.

His unbeaten 52 in the T20 World Cup final 13 months ago got England over the line and Mott admitted that reserving Stokes a spot for next year’s title defence represents something of a no-brainer.

The England white-ball head coach is also keeping close tabs on Archer, who it is hoped can return to full fitness in time for the T20 World Cup in June after a string of injuries to his right elbow.

“Ben, aside from his incredible match-winning ability in every department is that ability to have a seam bowler in that top-six gives you so many options with your team balance,” Mott said.

“A lot of the times you have to give up something. If you win, everyone says ‘oh, they got it right’. If you lose, it’s ‘they were a bowler short or a spinner short’.

“When you’ve got a seam bowler in your top-six, it makes selection a hell of a lot easier. So (choosing him at the T20 World Cup) is a given. Every team in the world wants someone like that and they’re rare.

“In terms of Jofra, you’ve just got absolute box-office pace, change of pace, bowl any over in the innings. Him on the park is massive, everyone would agree with that.”

England, without regulars Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow and Mark Wood, have fought back from 2-0 down in their T20 series against the West Indies to level at 2-2 and force a decider in Trinidad on Thursday.

And Mott gave a strong indication that the majority of the players involved in this series will be on the plane when England return for the T20 World Cup in June in the Caribbean and United States.

“We always said with this series we’d go pretty close to the side we’re looking for,” Mott said. “Otherwise, why would they be here? We don’t get many opportunities to play together before the World Cup.”

Phil Salt has made an irresistible case to open alongside Jos Buttler for the foreseeable future with match-winning innings of 109 not out in Grenada on Saturday and an England record 119 in Trinidad.

While he has flickered in an England shirt before, Salt is reaping the benefits of continuity in selection, having been on the fringes of both white-ball sides before this breakout tour.

“I’ve always thought he was an amazing player,” Mott said. “He does stuff that not many people can do and we’ve seen it at domestic level for a long time and we’ve seen glimpses of it internationally.

“It was funny – after he got the first hundred I said ‘it’s a habit now’ and he had true belief in it. You could see a different look in his eyes, it was like ‘not only do I belong, but I’ve got this’.

“You don’t know what you’ve got until you’ve achieved it. All of a sudden, he’s away, his international career is flying and he’s in the record books forever.”

England’s two wins have taken some pressure off Mott after their group-stage exit at the 50-over World Cup and ODI series defeat to the West Indies.

“I’ve been around the game a long time and I know it’s like the share market, your stocks go up and down all the time,” the Australian added.

“When you get into coaching, you realise you shouldn’t take too much credit for the success and not too much blame for the failures.”

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