- The cricket comes at fans thick and fast as Eoin Morgan’s side faces his home nation of Ireland to start the newly named ‘ODI Super League’
- It is also the first time England have played an ODI on home soil since their famous World Cup victory 12 months ago
- Coronavirus has meant England’s Test and white-ball squads are being kept separate, which has given a chance for a few fringe players to state their claim
SOUTHAMPTON, UK – With the Test squad otherwise engaged, can some of Morgan’s fringe players stake a claim and become one of the key players in England’s World Cup title defence?
Lord’s. 14 July 2019. Sunny skies. A packed house. Jofra Archer bowling to Martin Guptill in the super-over. Jos Buttler breaking the stumps. Delirium. Skip forward a year and we’ve had a global pandemic, forcing fans to stay away from stadia. The homecoming of England’s World Cup winning ODI team probably won’t be quite what Eoin Morgan had imagined.
England will face Ireland in three quick-fire ODIs, all in Southampton, over a period of just six days starting from Thursday. And these aren’t just meaningless run-outs to get match fitness in the legs of the players, either: this signals the start of the qualification period for the 2023 Cricket World Cup, which the ICC have inventively titled ‘ICC Cricket World Cup Super League’. Catchy.
So who should we be looking out for, and what can we expect performance-wise after the red-ball squad produced some brilliant performances to see off the West Indies?
Eoin Morgan doesn’t have the luxury of fielding the likes of Ben Stokes, Joe Root or Jofra Archer for this trio of games, as the coronavirus pandemic has led to packed schedules, resulting in white-ball cricket overlapping with the Test side’s exploits against West Indies and Pakistan (the first Test vs Pakistan starts next Wednesday). However, World Cup winners Jonny Bairstow, Jason Roy, Tom Curran, Adil Rashid, James Vince and Liam Dawson will all be available for selection, as will Morgan’s newly appointed vice-captain for this summer, Moeen Ali.
Moeen and Bairstow perhaps have the most to prove after being left out of the Test side, but with the red and white ball formats requiring such different skills nowadays, and such different mindsets from the batters in particular, it might signal to both players that it’s better to be key players in one side than on the fringes of both.
In Moeen, Rashid and Dawson, Morgan has three seasoned spinners he can call upon to put pressure on Ireland in the middle overs. Expect spin to play a big part in England’s success with the ball as they go into the series without the express pace of Archer or Mark Wood, who also misses out due to his involvement with the Test team.
Although these matches are important to win as a means for qualification to the next World Cup, expect rotation in a similar manner to the Test squad as three matches take place back-to-back. This should mean an opportunity for Vince to stake a claim for the top order in a way he couldn’t quite impose during last year’s World Cup when Roy’s injury occurred mid-tournament.
With much of England’s first-choice bowling line-up unavailable, it means significant recalls for two names the casual cricket fan may have forgotten about. David Willey, spearhead of England’s white-ball success pre-World Cup before a devastating dropping denied him of the chance to show his talents in the tournament, is back in the 14-man squad, alongside fellow left-arm seamer Reece Topley, who is set to win his first England cap for more than four years after excellent limited-overs form with Sussex last summer. The 6ft7in paceman has suffered five stress fractures since his last appearance for his country, so his selection is probably the most satisfying to see.
On the batting side of things, Sam Billings and Joe Denly get another chance to prove they have what it takes in international cricket. Both have been mainstays for Kent over the last decade, but have largely struggled when asked to make the step up to the highest level. Billings took the winter off after a disappointing T20 showing in New Zealand, and at the age of 29 needs to be making more of a mark than his current ODI average of 22.58. Expect Billings to be in with a shout of taking the gloves ahead of Bairstow, who impresses so much in the outfield.
Denly’s selection at the age of 34 is probably the most mind-boggling. Getting in ahead of young prospects Sam Hain, Laurie Evans and Phil Salt must mean he is doing something right when with the England set-up, and will be the only person to play both Test and ODI cricket this summer if he lines up against Ireland. Two fifties in South Africa at the start of this year have been enough to see him given another go, but with so many bright young things banging down the international door, how long before we say adieu to Denly?
Two with plenty to prove
The most exciting selections to be found in this 14-man squad are the inclusions of Tom Banton and Saqib Mahmood. Somerset star Banton’s batting has already been compared to the likes of Jos Buttler and AB de Villiers, due to his effortless ability to play the ramps and reverse sweeps which makes an opposition captain desperately question where to put his fielders. Although currently only with a high score in England colours of 32, he is a certainty, barring injury, to be a key part of the next World Cup cycle. I would like to see him given a chance at the top of the order in at least one of the games so he has a whole 50 overs to show us what an extraordinary talent he is.
Equally Mahmood, two years Banton’s senior at 23, is a star of the future (as well as the present). He has only featured in one ODI so far for England, this year in South Africa, but his ability to crank it up past 90mph as well as his yorkers make him an important man for Morgan in the death overs if things are getting too close for comfort. However, Mahmood must make this series count with Wood, Archer and Chris Jordan all ahead of him in the pecking order and all with similar skill-sets to the Lancashire quick.
The three reserves for this series are 32-year-old but uncapped fast bowler Richard Gleeson, Somerset limited-overs skipper Lewis Gregory and Lancashire’s destructive batsman Liam Livingstone, who can also fire in some useful leg breaks (basically, a younger version of Joe Denly).
The first ODI starts on July 30 and runs until August 4 in Southampton.
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