Thursday, 10 March 2011

England's World Cup Winning Side

What with Pietersen and Broad going home, England will have to play a different eleven to those who narrowly beat South Africa. And given that England were hardly in sparkling form before the win, there could easily be a few more changes. So who should they pick?

Well, now that Pietersen's not there, England will need to play another opener alongside Strauss. There are a few options, but moving a Bopara or Bell from the middle order would only unsettle things further, so I wouldn't do that. Some have said that Morgan should go straight in at the top, but that would negate his biggest asset - the "cool handed finisher" which England have massively lacked so far. If he opens, while he may be able to exploit the opening powerplays, England wouldn't have him at the crucial finishing overs - the time where his star shines the brightest. So he's not an option either.

There's been some calls (even from BBC Sport's Oliver Brett, nonetheless)for Luke Wright to come in and open. And I sort of see the logic. Wright opening wouldn't impact on the successful middle order, and some argue that he could make quick runs as a pinch-hitter at the top. However, Luke Wright is a poor excuse for a batsman; he's been tried as an opening pinch hitter, a middle order accumulator and as a late-order slogger, and he's failed in every role. He simply isn't a good enough batsman (or bowler) to be playing international cricket. And considering that England will likely want to play 5 bowlers (and have either Bresnan or Yardy at seven), having Wright and Yardy (sorry Sussex fans) in an international top order is a real recipe for disaster. No team should go into an ODI with four batsmen and a keeper.

For me, the best and most obvious option to open would be Graeme Swann. So far he's been the English player who's hit the ball the cleanest, and can definitely act as a pinch-hitter. He's done it in the past for Notts, with success, and he certainly has the confidence in his own abilities to pull it off. And opening with Swann gives much greater balance to the team, as England suddenly have Prior at seven, and bat much deeper while still allowing five bowlers to be picked.
It is not hypocritical of me to badmouth Wright as a batsman, and then ask for a number 9 to open instead. Swann is a much better batsman that Luke Wright. Look at the averages. To be fair, I'm a better batsman than Luke Wright.

So Swann will open. Broad is now out, so changes will need to be made bowling-wise. England will want to stick with the two-spinner / three-seamer approach, so either Tremlett or Shahzad will come in. For me, Shahzad is much better suited to the conditions. Tremlett bowls a length which requires a lot more bounce from the pitch to trouble batsmen, whereas I think Shahzad is a better wicket-taking option in the subcontinent, especially given that he has the ability to generate reverse-swing later on.

And my other change to the side would be bringing in Tredwell for Yardy. England struggled against India and Ireland, because they couldn't take wickets (Bresnan v India aside). Part of the reason for that is Yardy doesn't really take wickets. He isn't expected to take wickets either, which puts far more pressure on the other guys. And it only takes a bad day in the office for a couple of the seamers for a big partnership to develop and bat England out of the game (see Kevin O'Brien for details). Yardy, as effective as he can be at keeping the run rate fairly low, just isn't an aggressive wicket-taking option. Also in the squad is perennial water boy James Tredwell. Admiteddly Jimmy T is yet to take an ODI wicket, but he at least is an aggressive bowler, and will take wickets if the selectors show even the faintest amount of confidence in his abilities. So I'd stick Tredwell in for Yardy.

So England's side, is suddenly looking much stronger. In Swann opening there is a gamble, but we've seen gambles pay off big time for teams willing to make those brave calls so far this World Cup. And England's batting card of Strauss, Trott, Bell, Bopara, Morgan and Prior (down to seven) is up there with the best around. The bowling may not be as strong, but in Bresnan, Swann and Anderson England have three well-established ODI players who can all be match-winners on their day. And in Shahzad and Tredwell are two players who could surprise teams, and chip in with crucial wickets. There's still a long way to go before anyone can realistically think of England winning this thing, but it only takes a couple of good performances, and that all-important momentum to come England's way, and anything could happen. (That's the trouble though, with England, literally anything could happen...)

My England team:

Strauss (c)
Prior (wk)

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