Cast your mind back to 11 months ago and England’s unsightly exit from the T20 World Cup in Abu Dhabi.

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A miserable Chris Jordan drags himself off the field after bowling an eight-ball 17th over, giving New Zealand a more manageable equation going into the final three. It turned out only to be the final two; Daryl Mitchell didn’t need the last six balls of the innings after Jordan’s 23-run pasting.

It was a problem partly of England’s own making, partly of circumstance. After Tymal Mills pulled up injured, Jordan was the only death overs specialist in the England side. That’s evident from what happened after Jordan’s 17th over with Adil Rashid and then Chris Woakes coming on to bowl the following two. Tipped as favourites going into the tournament, no one doubted England’s prowess and ability to chase down pretty much any score with the bat. But with the ball, a side that famously always wants to chase found themselves not with a lack of talent, but without a diversity of skill-set.

Fast-forward and England have just bowled out Afghanistan for 112 in their first match of the 2022 T20 World Cup. Their pace bowling attack looked awesome, Mark Wood sending down the fastest four overs in T20 World Cup history and Chris Woakes disciplined as ever in the powerplay. It is the two bowlers who were absent from England’s previous campaign, however, who will have provided Jos Buttler and Matthew Mott with the biggest satisfaction.

Curran left the field in Perth with the best bowling figures of any bowler ever in men’s T20Is for England. Seeing him mop up the Afghanistan tail in just six balls in the 18th and 20th over was a more than welcome sight after England spent their warm-up games in Pakistan and Australia shuffling their bowling pack to land upon the right combination. Smaller than most at five foot seven, left-arm and skiddy, Curran doesn’t fit the mould of a typical seamer who does well in Australian conditions. However, as we all know by now, he’s Sam Curran and his inner (and outer) belief more than sees him through most situations he’s put in in an England shirt.

A back injury prevented Curran’s selection for the 2021 tournament, but before he was relegated to the sidelines, England weren’t using him in the same role they are now. In the matches he played last year he had good returns but was mostly bowling in the middle overs and the powerplay. Returning to the side after his injury in England’s home T20I series’ this summer, he failed to take a single wicket. Again he was barely used at the death, only bowling inside the last five overs in two matches. Cut to England’s seven-match tour of Pakistan, in all six matches he played, Curran bowled at least one over in the last five, taking seven wickets. In the warm-up matches against Australia, he took his best-ever figures prior to the Afghanistan game, again bowling at the end of the innings.

Curran’s success at the death has another benefit for England. Without having to include Jordan or Mills as a specialist, they are free to play a side with the balance tilted in favour of the bat, Curran coming in at No.8 still as a recognised batter, with Woakes behind him. This means England can still be the side that backs themselves to chase down any total, but now without compromising their bowling strength or plans.

England have also been fortunate to be able to do this because of Ben Stokes’ success with the new ball. Being used in a bowling capacity as and when his body would allow it for the smattering of T20Is he’s been available for over the last few years, if he can continue to rattle through an over or two up-top and a couple more in the middle, England can favour the balance Buttler likes to play. With Moeen Ali now being used as pretty much a specialist batter and Liam Livingstone back in the side alongside Brook, Stokes’ overs allow Buttler to keep a top-heavy lineup with a couple of backup bowling options if necessary.

It’s early on in this World Cup and Afghanistan are not the side that will put England’s bowlers under the most pressure in the competition. There is fitness to consider as well; it seems unlikely that both Chris Woakes and Mark Wood will play in all of England’s games. Stokes was also hobbling at points when bowling. But, at the moment with Curran and Stokes, England have the luxury of two premier all-rounders fitting both roles exceptionally well. Maybe, just maybe, if England are to lose another T20 World Cup, it won’t come down to their death bowling this time.