Since the dawn of T20 cricket, this dynamic and explosive format of the sport has become increasingly popular. The shorter timescale involved has drawn fans back to the game and more people than ever follow cricket thanks to this. Fans know they will always get plenty of excitement with powerful hitting and free-scoring the norm. The usual tactics and shots of Test cricket are shunned in T20 in favour of more innovative and unusual playing styles.
England have embraced this format with gusto over the years and as such produced lots of great batsmen who seemed to really enjoy the gung-ho attitude of it all. Let’s take a look at the best ones to date:
10. James Vince
The first name on our list is James Vince, who is one of the new kids on the block for England. It may seem strange to include him on a ‘Best Ever’ list when he is a current player with only 5 T20 international games to his name but his talent is supreme. If he carries on like he’s started he will definitely end up as one of the greats of English T20 cricket.
He has notched up 163 runs in his 5 matches with a top score of 46 so far to showcase his dynamic, attacking batting style. Playing his first T20 series against Pakistan in 2015, his 41 in the first game and 38 in the second helped England to wins and bagged him ‘Man of the Series’. Vince followed this with a useful performance for the injured Alex Hales in the 2016 T20 World Cup and looks set to be a regular in the team for years to come.
9. Ravi Bopara
A talented batsman who could use his wrists well to flick deliveries where he wanted them, Ravi Bopara was a fine stroke-player. Able to open the batting or play a part in the middle-order, his flexibility and effect on team spirit made him a regular player for England at T20 level. While many feel his career has not hit the heights that they hoped it would, he is still one of the finest T20 batsmen England have produced.
He acquitted himself particularly well in England’s 2014 T20 effort when you compare him to the rest of that team. Across the whole tournament he made 84 runs which left him as one of England’s best performers – even though they did manage to lose to the Netherlands! Overall, he has made 711 runs in 38 games so far for his country which is very respectable.
8. Craig Kieswetter
Making his T20 bow against the West Indies in 2010, batting wicketkeeper Craig Kieswetter had a short but sweet T20 career at international level. His aggressive approach to the sport and attacking batting style led many to compare him to Kevin Pietersen early on. Strong behind square on both sides, he also played very well through the off-side.
His finest moment in T20 for England was the 2010 World Cup final when he was named ‘Man of the Match’ for his powerful 63 runs off just 49 deliveries. Indeed, his fantastic opening batting was one of the reasons England ended up winning the whole tournament. Unfortunately for Kieswetter, there is not a good end to his story. Injured during a game when a ball somehow hit his eye after flying through the gap in his helmet grill, he was forced to retire early. His 526 runs in 25 games make you wonder just what he would have gone onto achieve if this had not happened.
7. Marcus Trescothick
Now we move onto the man they called ‘Banger’! With a nickname like that, you just have to be suited to the big-hitting style of T20 really don’t you?! A talented and aggressive opening batsman for his country, Trescothick’s stroke-play was a reminder of David Gower in his prime and led him to scoring the fastest ever half-century for England in T20 history.
He actually only played 3 T20 games for his country but I just had to include him here anyway. His 166 runs in total with a top score of 72 show how effective he was and probably would have played more but for his battle with depression that curtailed his international career. The 72 against Sri Lanka in 2006 was a particular confirmation of his T20 chops with nine fours and one six scored in that knock.
6. Joe Root
Joe Root is a very special player for England when you look at what he has achieved for one so young. A brilliant batsman, his shrewd shot judgement and crisp striking have led him to notch up many T20 runs for his country. While slight in build, his timing and superb front-foot drive make him a feared opponent for many bowlers.
Having played 24 games to date, he has amassed a huge 726 runs. This is very impressive and that total only looks set to rise as the years go on. If proof were needed of his outstanding talent then his 90 not out against Australia in 2013 is it. Containing thirteen fours and one six, the way he smashed this innings was simply sublime. His superb 83 against South Africa in 2016 and 68 against New Zealand in 2015 also warrant a mention for their brilliance.
5. Alex Hales
Always destined for T20 glory after he hit 55 off one over in that format domestically when just 16, Alex Hales is a young player England have high hopes for. A highly destructive batsman with a fine range of offside drive and cuts, he has the firepower all teams need to experience success in T20 cricket.
His international T20 career was notable from the off with a brilliant 62 off 48 balls against the West Indies in 2011 to showcase his talent. He always seems to produce special moments against the West Indies in particular as his 99 against them in 2012 was a career highlight for him. It did leave him with the unwanted record of being the only player dismissed so far in T20 history on 99 though!
In 47 T20 games to date, he has smashed a mighty 1,340 runs including a lovely 116 against Sri Lanka in 2014. A very exciting player, England will hope he continues in this vein for years to come.
4. Jos Buttler
If it’s brutal power and supreme big-hitting you’re after then this is your man. Another current young player for the England T20 team, Jos Butler is set for a long and successful career on the international scene. Evidence of his ability to score big and quickly was seen in his three century innings against New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. The 46-ball onslaught against Pakistan in particular was just unbelievably good!
One of the best English batsman in terms of using unorthodox shots to score, his bashes over the opposing wicket-keeper and long-on for boundaries are amazing to see. Allied to his natural batting talent, he has a steel nerve which makes run-chases no problem for him. In all he has played 56 matches to date for his country and clocked up 984 runs. The greatest effect he has had though is dragging English T20 cricket into the 21st century.
3. Paul Collingwood
One of the true great of the T20 format for his country, Paul Collingwood is probably not as well-regarded by the public as he should be. He became the first English Captain in the country’s history to lead his side to a major ICC trophy when England won the T20 World Cup in 2010. He also holds the record for the highest partnership for England in T20 cricket when he put on 102 with Owais Shah in 2008 against New Zealand.
A natural athlete, Collingwood was a fine player with the bat and his stroke-play proved valuable for the England side he was in charge of for 30 matches over the years. While not as explosive as a Buttler or Pietersen, he would quietly build up an innings to allow the more expansive players to play. With 35 games to his name and 583 runs, his place here is in no doubt.
2. Eoin Morgan
Although he may seem high up the list for a current and fairly new T20 player, the runs he’s scored and the effect his leadership has had on the England team simply demands it. Let’s be clear – when Morgan took over as captain, things were not looking too rosy for his country. His decisive vision that he would fashion a team to play with no fear and attack is the main reason they are doing well now.
Morgan is a talented left-handed batsman also with a reputation for inventive and audacious stroke-play including a superb reverse sweep shot. To date he has notched up 1,574 in 69 matches which is a fine record and one that will continue to grow. Notable performances were his 85 not out against South Africa in 2009 and 74 against Australia in 2015. A true leader of men and fine batter, Eoin Morgan is a must if England are to carry on their recent success in the T20 format.
1. Kevin Pietersen
A true entertainer by nature, Kevin Pietersen was the perfect fit for the demands of the T20 game. His fluid, attacking style and explosive batting shots made him a vital part of the English T20 team at the time. Never one to shy away from a challenge or be afraid to score quickly, he was one player the opposition hated seeing coming into bat.
Making his T20 debut against Australia in June 2005, Pieterson proved his worth to the team many times in his 37 games. Most notable was his performances in the 2010 T20 World Cup where he helped his country to a fine tournament win. His superb 47 off 31 balls in the final against Australia helped his side secure a 7-wicket victory and their first ever major ICC title. Indeed, so good was he in that series he scored 248 runs at a 62.00 average to grab ‘Man of the Series’.
In his time, Pietersen was box-office gold in the shorter format and a true world-class T20 batsman for England. It is a shame his career at international was rather cut short by a fall-out with the English management, otherwise who knows what figures he would have finished with?
The T20 format of international cricket is hugely popular with fans around the world and the English players above have certainly played their part in that success. With their mix of batting talent, attacking stroke-play and inventive shots, they are or were world-class. Exciting times lie ahead for the English T20 game as we wait to see how far Eoin Morgan can take them.
Image Credit: Ben Sutherland