The key talking points ahead of England’s T20 World Cup opener

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England begin their T20 World Cup campaign against Afghanistan on Saturday in Perth.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the key areas of discussion ahead of their opening game.

A bad trip for Topley

Reece Topley did not feature in last year’s tournament after joining the squad as a replacement player, but he was primed for a major role this time around after producing a career-best run of form in recent months. He was set to open the bowling in the powerplay and return at the death, two hugely important responsibilities that must now be reassigned. How well they fill those gaps – particularly at the business end – could decide English fortunes.

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Will Hales come good?

After three years in the cold, Jason Roy’s loss of form and Jonny Bairstow’s freak injury opened the door for the return of Alex Hales. It was a big call to make, and one which placed a stop on the next generation of Phil Salt and Will Jacks. England believe his experience in Australia’s Big Bash could be a trump card but he has only performed in bursts in the first nine games of his comeback, with two half-centuries but four single-figure scores. The game-plan needs him to perform.

Can England unlock the Stokes factor?

Ben Stokes’ status as match-winner, talisman and all-round superhero is well established within the England dressing room. But he has never consistently delivered – or recently, even appeared – in the short form. In an attempt to give him more time to shape the game, he has been pushed up the order and dabbled with opening the bowling. England are keen to get their most magnetic player into key periods and will be crossing their fingers that he can make use of his force of personality to make an impact.

How much will Morgan be missed?

Eoin Morgan will go down as one of the most influential leaders in English cricket history. A lack of runs eventually persuaded the 2019 World Cup winner to retire earlier this year and his replacement, Jos Buttler, endured a rocky start in the home summer. Results have picked up in recent weeks but Morgan’s cool head really shone through when the pressure was on. Tournament time is a different animal to a bilateral series and Buttler will need to be calm and controlled to steer his side through the inevitable tight spots.

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Rashid v Rashid

Discussions over their first opponents will focus very heavily on Rashid Khan, who has been one of T20 cricket’s most bankable game-changers for years. The leg-spinner can beguile even the very best and is routinely one of the most in-demand names at any draft or auction on the circuit. England have their own master of the craft in Adil Rashid, and his role through the middle is critical to the blueprint. He has not been at his very best in 2022 but the prospect of going head-to-head with the market leader may bring out the best in him.

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