#ENGvNZ ODI series: an Englishman’s view

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England begin their one-day series against New Zealand on Tuesday in the first of a five-match series. It will be England’s second ODI match and first ODI series since the Cricket World Cup and England have selected an exciting 14 man one-day squad comprising of younger players with an eye to the future. It is an inexperienced squad, but a squad with huge potential which needs time to gel.

ODI squad: Eoin Morgan (captain), Jos Buttler (wicket-keeper), Sam Billings, Steven Finn, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, James Taylor, David Willey, Mark Wood.

England have neglected the one-day format for years, using it as a springboard for Test players/future Test players/bits and pieces players, which has resulted in poor showings in the Cricket World Cup and Champions Trophy, and England have 50 ODIs from now until the 2017 Champions Trophy and 85 ODIs from now until the 2019 Cricket World Cup to get things right.

This squad is definitely a step in the right direction. I hope faith is shown in the younger players and the selectors don’t retreat back to the ‘safety first’ approach if it doesn’t work immediately. Leaving out Ian Bell, Gary Ballance, Ravi Bopara, Stuart Broad and James Anderson is absolutely the right thing to do if we are serious about being contenders for the 2017 Champions Trophy and the 2019 Cricket World Cup. England need proper one-day players who will still be there in four years’ time fit and firing, playing a fearless, winning brand of cricket.

England will really be really tested against the World Cup finalists, who have a confident and settled team which will go all guns blazing at England. I expect New Zealand to win as they are a quality one-day side and England are rebuilding with a younger group of players, but it will be an exciting one-day series with both teams playing a fearless, attacking brand of cricket.

Eoin Morgan has been retained as the skipper, a move I disagree with. He hasn’t been at his best for two years for England with the bat and with other exciting talent waiting in the wings, he is on borrowed time and must perform immediately and consistently if he is to be part of England’s side moving forwards. He should only be there on recent performances, not past reputation.

Likely ODI XI: 1. Roy, 2. Hales, 3. Taylor, 4. Root, 5. Morgan*, 6. Stokes, 7. Buttler+, 8. Rashid, 9. Willey, 10. Plunkett, 11. Finn.

Jason Roy and Alex Hales will be England’s opening pair. I think they will complement each other well. Roy is a powerful batsman who will take the game to the bowlers straight away to get himself and the team off to a flyer. It is what England need and it is Roy’s natural game. He has big stage potential and the run rate should be healthy. He won’t hold back if the first ball is there to be hit for four or six. Hales likes to give himself a few deliveries before he starts attacking and construct a big innings. If he faces near or over 100 deliveries, he will almost certainly be going at over a run a ball. They are an opening pair who should just be allowed to play their way and prosper.

James Taylor and Joe Root are almost certain to be England’s number three and four. They are both accumulative batsmen who look to play the big innings and bat through the middle overs. The modern one-day game doesn’t require old fashioned anchors at three and four like a Jonathan Trott or a Rahul Dravid, but those who are dynamic, consistent and will score at a strike rate over 90, whilst still facing the majority of the deliveries getting the team into a great position for the lower-order to tee off. Root has a good ODI record and Taylor has an excellent domestic one-day record. They are also good in a crisis in case both openers fall early. Both batsmen can sometimes be sluggish, which may be a concern, especially in a big run-chase, which is why I think having Ben Stokes at 3 could be worth a try, but it won’t happen.

Numbers five and six will be occupied by Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes. Morgan is very destructive when he’s at his best and can win England a game, but his good performances have become less frequent in the last two years. In form, he scores at a good rate and clears the boundary with ease, but we haven’t seen that enough in the last two years from him. Stokes has yet to fire in ODIs, but has moved up and down the order, and not had a settled role. He is an incredibly talented batting all-rounder who can single-handedly win you a game with the bat and hit boundaries for fun. He can be suited to a finishing role as he clears the boundary with ease, but can also be a dynamic number three. If he gets set, watch out. As a bowler, he goes for runs, but takes wickets. It’s important he has a bigger role as a batsman in the top six and not be relied upon to bowl ten overs, but be used as an attacking bowling weapon, not a last resort. He’s an impact player.

Jos Buttler will bat at seven as a finisher, which he’s good at, but I feel he’s worth much more than that. He can finish the innings off in style, but if he has more overs to bat, he’s even more dangerous and will become more consistent. He’s a match-winner with the bat, an ever improving wicket-keeper and an integral part of England’s ODI side.

England’s batting looks pretty good and there is depth, which sadly the same can’t be said about the bowling. The bowling is a concern for England. There aren’t many quality bowlers in England at the moment, but hopefully that will change soon. The bowlers England have picked are the best available, and are okay, but not quality. They aren’t able to contain like James Tredwell or James Anderson have done, but do take wickets so the best chance England have of restricting NZ is to set attacking fields, take wickets regularly and bowl them out. All of the bowlers have batting pedigree which is pretty handy, which adds to the depth of the batting order, which I see becoming more important with bigger scores being posted and more.

Adil Rashid is England’s only specialist spinner in the squad and he’ll bat at eight. He is an attacking weapon and he’ll need to be able to not only take wickets, but contain as well with his leg-spin. He’s been in good form in the last year, so comes into the team full of confidence. Rashid is also a good batsman and can contribute lower order runs.

David Willey is likely to play. England want a left arm seamer in their attack. Willey bowls a heavy ball and can also swing the ball. He is also a big hitting lower-order batsman. My concern is that he lacks pace. Against Ireland, he bowled 77-79mph, which gives you no margin for error and could let him be picked off. Now he’s in the squad, he needs to elevate his game to the next level and put on a yard of pace.

Liam Plunkett is the experienced pick, so he is likely to play. His selection has confused a lot of people, but I think he’s a good pick. England have missed having a genuine strike bowler able to bowl 90mph since Steven Finn, who kept having his run-up tinkered after the Finn Law came in, leading to a loss of rhythm, form, confidence and being deemed “unselectable” in January 2014 by then England one-day coach Ashley Giles. Plunkett can also provide lower order hitting.

Steven Finn is likely to start the series as well. He is still not back to his best form or regained full pace. He still isn’t hitting a consistent good-full length and is bowling 81-85mph. For England’s sake, it is important he does get back to his best as he was an integral part of England’s ODI side in 2011 and 2012 and consistently bowled high-quality spells which helped win England games, but at the moment, I think he’d be better off staying at Middlesex working with Richard Johnson (the bowling coach).

I think Sam Billings, Chris Jordan and Mark Wood will start on the sidelines, though all 14 members of the squad should get a go at some stage.

Sam Billings is a wicket-keeper/batsman and is Kent’s finisher. He averaged over 100 in last year’s Royal London One-Day Cup and is an innovative, versatile batsman able to hit 360 degrees and clear the boundary. I think he could be worth a punt as a specialist finisher, not just provide back-up for Jos Buttler.

Chris Jordan is a multi-dimensional cricketer able to bowl quickly, hit far and field excellently. However, he has to improve his accuracy and consistency as a bowler to succeed for England. He bowls lots of wides and can be inconsistent in his length. He is an excellent fielder and can play quick cameos down the order. He has potential and can be a part of England’s one-day side with performances.

Mark Wood is a seriously talented skiddy fast bowler who is definitely part of England’s plans for the now and future. He is a wicket-taker and bowls 90mph. He will be needed, as England have a lack of genuine fast bowlers. Having not played lots of games for Durham, he bowls a consistent line and a good full length.

Chris Woakes is injured and will come back into the England team once he’s fit and in-form. He’s an important bowler able to bowl accurately, swing the new ball away and bowl 85-89mph, as well as being a good lower-order batsman, but aside from that, and also Moeen Ali to come back after the Ashes, this will pretty much be the the nucleus of England’s ODI team.

I think England are capable of scoring 320+ and winning games. The batting is exciting, the bowling is concerning, and the fielding will be exciting as well, especially from Jason Roy, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid, James Taylor and Ben Stokes who are all high-quality fielders.

Here’s to an exciting one-day series in a new one-day era for England. I’m fully behind this England team. They can go a long way. May the best team win!


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