Home » THE INSIGHT EDGE WITH IG: England’s Death Bowling Problem

THE INSIGHT EDGE WITH IG: England’s Death Bowling Problem

CricViz analyst Ben Jones looks at a significant concern for England’s T20 side.

A quick one – England are good at T20 cricket. Amidst the red ball doom and gloom which perennially clouds English cricket, the white ball sides are still top class. Of all full member nations, they have the second highest win percentage since the start of 2019, and while a disappointing (yet injury plagued) World Cup campaign has somewhat taken the gloss of that, the causes for concern are not widespread. The batting depth is still unparalleled, and the truer surfaces of Australia later this year should suit them far more than the slow and low UAE conditions.

Similarly, even as England lick their wounds after a 3-2 series defeat in the Caribbean, there is a caveat. This was always going to be a tough series, given the absence of Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer, Sam Curran, Ben Stokes, Dawid Malan, and Mark Wood. With a second string team, this was always going to be about learning, identifying problems, and hopefully solving them – and  what England have learned, emphatically, is that they need to improve their death bowling.

We say “learned” in a slightly tongue-in-cheek sense, because England’s death bowling has been a significant worry for a long time now. Since the start of 2019, their death economy is the highest in the world; since the start of 2020, it’s also the highest in the world; since the start of 2021, you guessed it – it’s the highest in the world.

On the one hand, Jofra Archer’s limited T20I career is a partial explanation for this. Despite being one of the best death bowlers in the world, Archer has been pushed towards Test cricket, ODI cricket, and the surgeon’s table, and has played just 12 T20 internationals since becoming available for selection in 2019. That isn’t unusual for the best all-format players, but when England are reflecting on why their death record is quite so poor, Archer’s absence is a factor.

But beyond that, there is more of a problem. Aside from getting their premier bowler fit and firing, what can England do – in terms of personnel or strategy – to improve their record in the final overs of the innings?


On a personnel level, the most notable issue has been the performance of Chris Jordan. Comfortably England’s most capped player since the 2016 World T20, the Sussex bowler has been a key part of Eoin Morgan’s T20 strategy. His performance has often been middling to poor in domestic leagues around the world, but he has generally delivered solid to good performances in an England shirt. However, in recent times that has changed. Since the start of 2020, he goes at 10.4rpo in the death overs for England, struggling to consistently deliver economical performances in the phase where he specialises. 

This decline in performance has been followed by a move away from his trademark yorker strategy. In 2021 Jordan bowled 30% short balls at the death, the most he’s ever done in a calendar year. Despite accusations, Jordan is not inflexible, and he should be praised for trying to adapt and improve his approach. It’s interesting that his Sussex, Southern Brave, and England teammate Tymal Mills has done the exact opposite, building a reputation on bowling hard lengths into the pitch, before a move towards using a few more yorkers in the last year or so. Regardless of the plan itself, predictability is the bane of death bowling, and both of these bowlers seem to understand that.

Equally, to his credit, what Jordan does have is an all-round game that the other options don’t. He is the best fielder in the world by CricViz metrics, and while his batting has sometimes flattered to deceive – his technique is far more classical and red ball focused, than just tailored towards death hitting – the last year or so has seen some improvement. Since the start of 2021, his strike rate has been 139 in T20Is, exactly the sort of capable late innings firepower which makes the batting depth strategy work. Jordan’s bowling may be faltering, but he does offer a broader package.

However, when everyone is fit, available, and selected, it increasingly feels as if he doesn’t get in the best team. The big issue is that those occasions are increasingly rare, given Archer and Mills’ injury records, and just as concerningly, the men England have brought into the side to try and put pressure on that first choice trio, have generally been unable to deliver.

Mills himself has done well, recording the best death economy of any England seamer since the start of 2019, but his physical frailties are not going away. Even when he avoids injury, the need to manage his workload does slightly hamper his otherwise compelling case for selection. Reece Topley impressed in this series, but is ultimately more of a Powerplay bowler rather than a death specialists, and the same could be said for Saqib Mahmood despite the Lancashire quick having a less impressive run. 


One option England have is that rather than changing the individuals, they change the overall strategy. In some ways, death bowling is the most formulaic element of T20 strategy, dominated by pace bowlers and within that, variations of the yorker. However, there is still room for innovation, and tactical intervention. 

However – to an extent, England have already tried this. 50% of their death bowling in 2021 was short, most for any year since 2010, when England won the World T20 in the Caribbean, their first ever ICC tournament. Shown best in the changing approach of Chris Jordan, England have made a conscious move away from the yorker in the death overs, and towards a policy of high pace into the pitch. It’s brought some improvement in particular bowlers, but as we are aware, it’s not improved things overall.

One possibility would be for them to use more of Adil Rashid in the death overs. Wrist spin is an undervalued opton in the death overs, the kings of T20 cricket just as tricky to get away in that phase as any other. England have tried this – in 2021, 17% of Rashid’s T20I deliveries were in the death overs, comfortably the most in his career. However, the issue for Rashid is that he’s such an improved bowler that England want to use him in every phase; 21% of his deliveries last year were in the Powerplay, also the most. The pattern of spin at the top and at the death, with high pace through the middle, is a trendy and effective pattern of play for T20 sides who have the resources to try, and England are one, but it would place a lot of emphasis on their second/third spinners. Livingstone bowled a death over in the semi-final, brilliantly, but it was a 16th over and you wonder if it’s sustainable.


England have a number of options available to them, from changing their death strategy, their players, or even their overall balance of the side. If they embraced the batting heavy plan to an even greater extent, then they might be able to mitigate against the death issues by simply scoring more runs – a very Eoin Morgan response, you’d say. Regardless, it increasingly feels like if England are going to win the World Cup later this year, the death bowling is the area they need to improve. 

Latest Posts

CricViz agrees three-year deal to support Delhi Capitals in the WPL tournament. LONDON AND DELHI, February 11, 2023: CricViz, …

February 11, 2023

CricViz hires experienced cricket administrator Zorol Barthley to lead expansion in the Americas LONDON, February 9, 2023: CricViz, the…

February 9, 2023

CricViz achieved a major breakthrough in our broadcast offering during the first Test between Australia and West Indies at…

December 5, 2022