Five long years ago in Kolkata, time stood still for England's white-ball cricketers against West Indies. The final of the 2016 World T20 culminated in such an extraordinary expression of wrought, raw power, as Carlos Brathwaite seized his moment against Ben Stokes, that it might have been the undoing of a more callow opposition.
Instead, in many ways, that moment was the making of Eoin Morgan’s England - a team that had been assembled from the dregs of an abject World Cup campaign in 2015, and who embarked on their Indian odyssey with the naïve optimism of a gang of gap-year backpackers.
“Embrace the naivety” was Morgan’s mantra on that 2016 trip, as he encouraged his players to make a virtue of their inexperience, and simply go with whatever flow seemed to fit the needs of the moment. And right up until that volley of sixes at Eden Gardens, their eyes-wide-shut approach had seemed on course to seal their second T20 crown in the space of six years, after a similarly improbable triumph in the Caribbean in 2010.
But instead, the brutality of their missed moment had other, longer-term effects. Stokes, in particular, chose to channel his guilt and frustration into a four-year quest to become the most potent player on the planet, and was able to distil so many of those Kolkata lessons into the clutch moments of the epic 2019 final.
England’s team balance is an ongoing concern, with West Indies’ prowess against spin potentially encouraging England to field a seam-heavy line-up that, in the absence of Stokes and Curran, may force sacrifices to be made to their batting. And for all that Morgan has volunteered to drop himself if his form doesn't pick up, the shorter-term victim is more likely to be England's No. 1-ranked T20I batter, Dawid Malan, whose form in the warm-ups (a run-a-ball 18 and 11 from 15) seemed to confirm that his game isn't best suited to the UAE's pitches. The alternative would be to play one of Chris Jordan and Tymal Mills, with the spin of Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid and Liam Livingstone to fiddle through two bowling allocations between them.
Stats and trivia
England have never yet beaten West Indies in five attempts at a global T20 tournament. They lost in consecutive tournaments in 2009, 2010 and 2012 (despite recovering on that second occasion to lift the title) then twice in 2016, including the final.
Gayle and Bravo are two of only six players to have featured in all six T20 World Cups to date, dating back to the original event in South Africa in 2007. India's Rohit Sharma, and the Bangladesh trio of Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah complete the set.
West Indies have played just two T20Is in Dubai, and lost them both, against Pakistan in 2016. England, by contrast, have won four and lost two at the stadium, also against Pakistan between 2010 and 2015.