Stuart Broad's squad are the first England team – in the men's game at least – to go into a world championship as defending champions.
There is a further element of mystery supplied by the infrequency with which Twenty20 internationals are played. Friday's match will be England's 17th Twenty20 outing since Paul Collingwood, to general amazement, lifted the trophy in Barbados on May 16, 2010. Over the same period, they have played 59 one-day internationals. That paucity of practice means team strategies will evolve right up to the moment they take the field. There is little chance to arrive at settled opinions when you play on average only seven matches each year, so England can take not only pleasure, but some pointers to their best line-up from their last match, the victory over South Africa in a rain-restricted clash at Edgbaston on Wednesday.
Two young players may well have played themselves from the periphery to the centre of England's thinking. Spectacular hitting by Jos Buttler not only rewarded a year of patient investment in the previously unproductive Somerset prodigy, who was 22 last week, but also refuted theories that with Kevin Pietersen absent, England lack the explosiveness that turns matches on their heads.
Buttler did it in the space of an over. When South African left-arm paceman Wayne Parnell took the ball at the start of England's 10th over, the Proteas were well on top. A single over and 32 superbly-struck runs later – the second most productive over in the history of international cricket – England had an ascendancy that was never threatened.
One reason for that was the bowling of the still younger Danny Briggs, who on debut was entrusted with the first over of South Africa's innings. Briggs, 21, responded by accomplishing what in 2012 counts as a cricketing miracle, spinning consecutive deliveries past the edge of Hashim Amla's bat.
Immediate evidence to suggest that Briggs has the mix of turn, control, flight and self-belief essential to success as an international spin bowler broadens the options for a tournament in which spin is likely to matter. Assuming that Sri Lankan wickets conform to their slow, low norm the contributions of spinners such as Briggs and the established Graeme Swann and of bowlers skilled in taking pace off the ball, like England's at-the-death specialist Jade Dernbach, will be vital.
However, England have reason to be wary of the Afghans, whose style of play is particularly suited to the shortest form of the game. Broad can, from bitter personal experience, remind his team-mates of the dangers of underestimating supposed minnows, having been the bowler in the decisive final over in the defeat by the Netherlands in 2009.
At least one team will almost certainly pull off a shock in a format designed for brief explosions of brilliance and that could well be the Irish, who have form in such matters and play Australia on Wednesday. Momentum is all in a short, sharp competition spread over 27 matches and a little under three weeks. In a field of 12, potential contenders outnumber the no-hopers – a category to which many consigned England in 2010.
Sri Lanka command local knowledge, two of the world's most lethal deliverers of four-over spells in spinner Ajantha Mendis and slingy paceman Lasith Malinga, plus formidable batting. India are nobody's idea of an underdog, and are given a romantic quality by the presence of Yuvraj Singh, just returned from treatment for cancer. And, against type, nobody has a more consistent World Twenty20 record than Pakistan.
If a victor is to come from outside Asia, the West Indians field a formidable batting line-up headed by returnee Chris Gayle, the short game's pre-eminent aggressor, and have a proven T20 spinner in Sunil Narine
South Africa are long overdue a knock-out trophy, and then there's England. Could lightning strike twice? If it does, the organisers will hope it takes the form of Broad lifting the trophy rather than an unwelcome manifestation of Sri Lanka's too-close-for-comfort rainy season.