Tom Banton’s performance against the Pakistani spinners in Friday’s rain-ruined T20 has left him well-placed for the World Cup in India next year, according to England’s stand-in head coach Graham Thorpe.
The 21-year-old Banton made a glittering 71 off 42 balls in a total of 131 for six before the weather intervened – with 35 coming in 17 deliveries from the slow bowlers, including four brutal sixes.
England expect to reunite openers Jos Buttler, who has been rested for this series, and Jason Roy, who is out with a side strain, for the three T20 matches against Australia starting on September 4.
But Banton’s fireworks will leave the selectors with some tricky decisions in the months ahead as they look for a batting combination capable of adding the 20-over World Cup to the 50-over trophy they won in dramatic fashion last summer. It would be an unprecedented double.
‘If you can step up and put in performances like that, you’ll certainly going to create competition for the squad, and that’s what we’re looking for,’ said Thorpe, who is in charge for the three Pakistan games following head coach Chris Silverwood’s exertions in the Test bubble.
‘He’s certainly talented. You can tell he’s very hungry as a player, and he works well at his game. It’s always pleasing when you see someone perform on the big stage as a young lad.’
Asked if the fact that the 2021 World Cup is being played on India’s turning pitches will stand Banton – who earlier this year signed his first IPL contract with Kolkata Knight Riders – in good stead, Thorpe replied: ‘Yes. In this game, you need to have real clarity on your strokeplay, and he’s powerful as well. You saw some of the skill shots – the ramps he played off Haris Rauf – but he was also incredibly clear on his plan against spin.’
Despite the excitement generated by Banton, England also want him to keep stating his case, starting with Sunday’s second T20 in Manchester.
He is only four games into his T20 international career, and the management are aware that a first-choice top five of Roy, Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes will only be rejigged if someone special comes along.
Sensibly, Thorpe played down comparisons with Kevin Pietersen, adding: ‘Let him be comfortable in the environment he’s in, and let him develop at his own pace.’
Meanwhile, Thorpe has welcomed the presence of Sunday’s game on the BBC – the first time the corporation has broadcast live cricket since they shared the 1999 World Cup with Sky.
‘It’s fantastic,’ he said. ‘It’s a great opportunity for cricket in general, and for us as a team, so we’ll be hoping we can put on a good show. I don’t think we need to put any more pressure on ourselves as a team, but we’ll go out, enjoy it and hopefully the audience watching the game is potentially larger.’