Adil Rashid hadn’t been at his usual best during the T20 World Cup.
The usually reliable leg-spinner took his first wicket of the tournament in the final game of the Super 12s against Sri Lanka.
His slump in form predates the World Cup. In 15 T20s since last summer, Rashid has taken eight wickets, conceding over 8.7 an over.
Since arriving in Australia, Rashid has bowled 19 overs and taken 1-168. The slump in form will have caused concern for captain Jos Buttler and coach Matthew Mott, but they have stuck by him.
He has credit in the bank, after all. Since his T20 debut in 2009, Rashid has taken 90 wickets and is England’s leading wicket-taker in the shortest format.
Against Sri Lanka, he reminded everyone why he is key and will be important in the semi-final against India on Thursday at the Adelaide Oval (8am UK time) where spin can be a factor.
Rashid entered the fray in the sixth over, with Sri Lanka on top, and conceded just two runs to tilt the balance towards England. He ended with figures of 1-16 in four overs.
Buttler believes that Rashid has been unlucky in recent matches, highlighting missed chances, including Moeen Ali’s drop against New Zealand.
He said: “I think a lot of people always look at the end column, and maybe he hasn’t picked up the wickets he usually does, but I don’t think he has bowled with much luck.
“A few chances were missed, but I still think he was bowling well and on surfaces like this he is a really tough customer to face.”
Rashid is ‘irreplaceable’ and ‘master of his craft’
Rashid’s performance in the final group match showcased his ability to squeeze teams in the middle overs, laying the platform for the other bowlers to take wickets with the pressure off.
Eoin Morgan described Rashid as “irreplaceable”, while Michael Atherton said he is “a master of his craft”.
“Sometimes people jump to the far right column and that doesn’t justify his contribution to the team. On a wicket like this, he has the ability to turn a game on its head. He sucked the life out of Sri Lanka after that brilliant start,” Morgan said.
“He went through his full repertoire of variations and got the huge wicket of Pathum Nissanka. That was crucial as Sri Lanka looked like they were going to post 170,175 which would have been an unbelievably tough chase on this wicket.”
Atherton added: “I suspect he would have come to the ground thinking ‘this was a big day for me’.
“Players know when there are whispers about their form. The best dressing rooms block out external noise, but you can’t block it out completely even if you are not a newspaper reader or social media watcher.
“That, plus the fact it was a tired pitch and the importance of the game, he would have felt he needed to put in a performance and he did so. He is a master of his craft.”
For England, Rashid is key in the way they want to play T20 cricket and for Rashid, he could be coming back into form at the perfect time.
Watch England’s T20 World Cup semi-final against India live on Sky Sports Cricket on Thursday. An hour-long build-up begins at 7am ahead of an 8am start at Adelaide Oval.