After a narrow 3-2 defeat to Australia in the One Day series, England have a short break before going to the UAE for their series with Pakistan and then later South Africa – and for me it should be a time for a little tinkering for the new coach of English cricket. There were plenty of positives – such as scoring 400+ against NZ, chasing down 350 and beating NZ in the ODI series – and for the first time playing aggressive, attacking cricket. But there were also plenty of questions asked about certain individuals that need answering.
With Jason Roy, England look to have a potential world class opener for years to come. He started slowly, and is still getting himself out with needless shots – but he is scoring runs and at a rate of knots! On the other hand you have Alex Hales, who has scored 2 50’s in 19 innings – and is getting caught out by the really quick bowlers every time – Cummins had him several times during that last series. He may be fine against the average teams, but against the really class teams he has been found out and every team will now have an easy game plan to get him out. He need to be dropped.
At 7, England have been batting Moeen Ali – a class batsman who should be miles up the order. For me, Ali should be opening with Roy, which would allow another batsman, or even with Joe Root coming back – an extra batsman like James Taylor who has impressed.
England’s middle order has been brilliant most games, getting them out of a hole or two. Joe Root, Eoin Morgan and James Taylor have been amazing, each scoring plenty of runs in the middle overs when the field is spread. With Root to come back in, there could be a space for Sam Billings or James Taylor if Hales is dropped, and in my opinion as should Bairstow. Ben Stokes has appeared at 5 a few times but for me is an end-of-innings player who can batter it about, not a 5 who can play through 20-30 overs. He has scored a couple of 40’s, but on the whole gets out very easily. For me he should be down at 6-7. James Vince has been unfortunate not to be given a chance, as his batting for the last season or two has been worthy of an international call-up.
England have a plethora of keepers – Jos Buttler has been played across all formats but he too has been found out to be a biffer – excellent for late innings hitting but unable to build an innings if the going is tough and he ends up in the middle at 100-4. For me he was rightly dropped, with Johnny Bairstow coming in. Bairstow has had a few chances in the past and done poorly, and despite an innings of 85 to win an ODI vs NZ, he has generally been poor. The 3rd option and my favourite is Sam Billings – a young wicket-keeper/batsman for Kent, who has been used lower down the order for the T20 side and a fielder. I feel in a 50 over game he would be perfect at 5/6, as he is a hitter but plays better once he gets himself in. In the T20 he was expected to bash it around and despite some success – he was wasted at 7. He should get the nod ahead of the other two, as he can perform now and grow into the side for many years to come.
‘Jack of all trade’ Bowlers
England seem to have picked a number of bowlers on their batting. David Willey has been brilliant with the ball, and opens the batting for his county in limited overs cricket as he can really hit the ball. He bats as low as 9, and with Adil Rashid (Leg Spinner/Batsman), Moeen Ali (Off Spin/Batsman), Ben Stokes (Seam/Batsman) as well as Joe Root (Off Spin/Batsman) I feel England have no need for Liam Plunkett, who is now 30 and put in as he can whack it. His bowling has been average, but I feel someone younger and more of a specialist bowler should be in there with the likes of Steve Finn and Mark Wood. In the Aussie series, there was about 7 bowling options – with upto 3 spinners, and 9 who could bat very well. It was the bowling department that let the side down sometimes and I think with someone like Reece Topley sitting on the sidelines watching Plunkett play – it’s pointless as he makes little difference. Either stick another proper bowler in, or another batsman as they don’t need so many options. With Wood, Finn, Willey, Stokes, Ali, Rashid and Root – there is plenty. For me, Wood should come in for Plunkett full time.
For me, the team should be:
1. Jason Roy
2. Moeen Ali
3. Joe Root
4. Eoin Morgan
5. James Taylor
6. Sam Billings
7. Ben Stokes
8. Adil Rashid
9. David Willey
10. Mark Wood
11. Steve Finn
Moeen has the ability to smack it about in the first 10 overs but then go on to build an innings like he did in the T20. His quality to play both spin and pace is perfect for that position and he does not give his wicket away cheaply like Hales. A perfect foil for Jason Roy.
Down the order you have Taylor and Billings in for Hales and Bairstow, and then Stokes back at 7 ready for a later innings on-slaught, and if needed he can come in above Billings in the final 5/6 overs. You still then have Rashid and Willey who have first class centuries to their names – and then the two bowlers – but even Mark Wood is half decent with a blade of willow!
Bowling wise you have Root, Ali and Rashid who bowl a variation of spin, Willey who opens with swing bowling (a left arm over is always handy to have) and then two pure pace bowlers in Wood and Finn – with Wood for me the closest thing to Simon Jones we’ve had. Short run up, great pace and gets some movement. That team could play in both ODI formats, with again small tinerking in the batting order needed such as Willey and Stokes a bit higher up.
The problem at the moment is Ali is majorly wasted at 7, Stokes bats too high at 5 and both keepers are questionable at the moment. I feel with slight tinkering, England are onto a top class team which has age on it’s side – and with the likes of Reece Topley coming through, there should be a bright future for the English national team