England have not been at their best on and off the field during a disappointing T20I series against Bangladesh, according to Nasser Hussain.
Jos Buttler’s side slumped to a four-wicket loss in the second T20I on Sunday as the hosts sealed a series victory with one game to spare.
In both of the T20I matches so far, England failed to make a big score when batting first, and Hussain said following the second match that England should have added an extra batter to their squad after Will Jacks was forced to withdraw due to injury.
Jacks himself was a late addition to the tour after Tom Abell pulled out before the first ODI with an injury.
The withdrawal of Jacks meant England were a batter short and did not draft anyone in as a replacement, with Sam Curran and Moeen Ali promoted up the order.
Hussain felt this was a poor decision by England, saying: “The selectors have a difficult juggling act. They’ve got one of the great series coming up in the Ashes. So, they are trying to rest their Test match players.
“They’ve got white-ball players playing Test match cricket. They’ve got lads that are injured. They’ve got the county season starting soon.
“But we’ve got 18 counties, if we can’t put an extra batter or two on the ground in Bangladesh, if it means flying (Ollie) Pope or (Zak) Crawley, who I think will be a good white-ball cricketer, I don’t think it’s good enough to say we are one batter short.
“We are the England cricket team, it’s an important tour. We saw what it meant to Bangladesh, and we have to treat it with the same respect. They didn’t have the right balance of squad.”
Pope, who has returned to England after touring New Zealand with the red-ball side, was on punditry duties for the second T20I and said he would have “absolutely” answered the call from Buttler if it had come.
Hussain said he understood the thinking behind the decision, adding: “I can guess there are a few England cricketers who play for counties that would like to be playing out there. The players that will be there for the next World Cup get the extra responsibility, so I get a little bit of the thinking.
“Curran, Woakes, Jordan, Ahmed got a bat on difficult conditions on a difficult pitch.”
Buttler: No regrets over squad selection
England captain Buttler said he is comfortable with the squad picked for the series, despite defeats in the opening two T20Is of the tour.
Buttler highlighted the absence of several players, including Alex Hales, Sam Billings and Liam Dawson, who were given special dispensation by England to prioritise the ongoing Pakistan Super League.
“It’s a different balance and a different feel to the team,” said Buttler. “We wanted to give exposure to guys especially who, in these conditions, will also probably play a part in the 50-over World Cup.
“It felt like a great chance to expose the all-rounders’ batting, maybe one spot higher than in our normal team.
“The way cricket is at the moment, there’s a few players who’ve opted not to be here anyway for various reasons, so it felt like instead of calling someone else up, try to use the guys who would be exposed to these conditions in the 50-over World Cup as well.”
Disappointing day for Buttler
One of the surprise decisions of the second T20I was Dawid Malan opening the batting with Phil Salt and Buttler instead coming in at number four.
Moeen was also promoted up the order to number three, as England reacted to a middle-order collapse in the first match.
Hussain and Pope felt the decision was taken for England’s captain to anchor the innings, but the experiment failed as the visitors were bowled out for 117 in tough conditions.
Buttler said after the game: “We’ve obviously got a bank of left-handers in our middle order, it was just an opportunity to change that up a little bit.
“I’m very comfortable batting anywhere in the order, I’ve spent a hell of a lot of my career as a middle-order player as well. I just felt like it would be an opportunity to try something different.
“The opportunity for Mo to go in at number three, something he’s done successfully for Chennai Super Kings (in the Indian Premier League). There’s still some good strengths there as well.”
Hussain was also critical of Buttler’s decision-making in the field, particularly choosing not to give the spinners a first slip.
Despite defending a low score, England took the game deep and were in with a chance of sealing a dramatic victory with 13 needed from the final two overs.
But Buttler opted to give Chris Jordan his first over, rather than turning to Curran or Rehan Ahmed, who had already bowled in the innings.
The decision proved costly as Bangladesh hit three boundaries in Jordan’s over to win the match.
“Fair play to Bangladesh. 2-0 against the world champions, and they’ve played some terrific cricket. Shanto is going to be a star in the making. They need to start finding fine cricketers. That’s a big win for them,” Hussain said.
“England haven’t been at their best on or off the field. Buttler hasn’t had his best day today. He should’ve opened the batting, some of the fields he set and asking someone to bowl their only over in the 19th over is a big, big risk,” he said.
“Rashid bowled okay. Sometimes when he has been to the subcontinent he bowls a certain pace. I thought they could’ve attacked a bit more. You have got to attack more with your best spinner.”
Positive signs for Archer and Ahmed
It was not all negative for England, with Buttler’s side bowling brilliantly despite defending a low score.
Curran again made an early breakthrough, but it was Jofra Archer who was the pick of the bowlers, finishing with figures of 3-13 from four overs.
He has regularly challenged the batters, bowling over 90mph at times, and nearly sparked a dramatic win when he took two wickets in two overs toward the end of the innings.
Hussain said Archer’s performance was a good sign, but he will continue to have to be managed with a hectic schedule this year.
“Archer’s spell with the new ball and his spell later were real positive signs that he is trusting his body. It will be interesting to see if he plays on Tuesday,” he said.
“The challenge for English cricket is he is going to be wanted by everyone. Buttler and (Matthew) Mott will want him for the World Cup. (Ben) Stokes and (Brendon) McCullum will want him for the Ashes.
“It is a massive step up to bowl red ball, having not done that for a couple of years. Anything in red-ball cricket will be a bonus.”
Another positive was Rehan Ahmed, who made his T20I debut and took his first wicket with his second ball.
Hussain believes the teenager has “a real future” ahead of him, after taking nine wickets in his first three internationals across all formats.
“Super three months for him. On Test debut, he got a five-for, with some great scenes in Pakistan. He will get better wickets, a little drag down, that’s how leg-spinners get wickets,” Hussain said.
“He has got a future and will be on the radar for the 50-over World Cup. England are a very good tournament side. They’ve become almost the polar opposite of India, who are a very good bilateral side. They’ll get the gang back together, but just pay attention on that journey to the World Cup.”
The three-match T20I series wraps up with the final game in Mirpur on Tuesday. Live coverage starts from 8.30am on Sky Sports Cricket and Sky Sports Main Event, with play getting under way from 9am.