How good are England? Part 3
Well here we are the final part of the series. If you haven’t read the first two parts of the series let me explain. England like to imagine themselves as a great white ball side and approaching a great red ball side and every great side has strength in depth. As i said in the first part what do you do when a world beater is injured you simply replace him with another one. So far I have covered the test team and the T20i side to mixed results. Whilst the test side boasts an impressive back up attack of Sam Curran, Chris Woakes, Jack Leach, Ollie Robinson and Mark Wood the batting was definitely on the weaker side. Conversely the T20i side boasted a strong batting lineup of Tom Banton, Phil Salt, Joe Root, Joe Denly, Liam Livingstone, Sam Billings and Moeen Ali, but the bowling (more specifically the pace bowling) left much to be desired without the first teamers in there.
When selecting the teams i do not base it off of who i want to play for England more who England see as their backups, the players who have been in the most squads or who have played recently.
So now we move onto the ODIs; England dominated the 50 over format for around 4 years and we all know how that ended… Yet in recent times the side has shown some weakness but also the signs of it being a new side with fresh talent coming through. A series draw with South Africa (after Shamsi span a web around the English batsmen in the first ODI) at the start of the year was worrying, a 2-1 win over Ireland whilst impressive wasn’t as comfortable as it seemed with England's batting nearly letting them down only to be rescued by Sam Billings until Ireland completed one of the great one day run chases. Then a first home series defeat in nearly 4 years came from the old enemy and honestly not much was made of it. The English psyche has very much shifted to the shortest format and with back to back world cups we can all see why.
First off I will lay out the first choice Xi. To open it’s the best white ball opening partnership in the world and some could argue ever Roy and Bairstow, Joe Root slots in at 3 with Morgan at 4, Stokes is at 5 with Buttler 6 and keeping wicket, Moeen is 7 with Woakes at 8, Archer is at 9 with Rashid at 10 and Wood at 11. This is a very very strong side but one we may not see much of over the coming years due to a shift in focus away from the 50 over game.
To face the first ball of this side I've gone with Liam Livingstone. Livingstone is a player who many in the world of cricket analytics and or supporting Lancashire rate very very highly. It’s not difficult to see why he is rated so highly. Livingstone has an obscene amount of power and his leg side swing is a great shot to watch in all of its beauty. He was included in the England ODI squad for South Africa and although he most likely would have featured in the middle order i personally want him at the top where he bats in the shortest format. Livingstone was a shoe in for this side and don’t be surprised to see him where the baby blue of England in years to come.
I have gone for Phil Salt for the other opening slot. Salt is a fantastic cricketer and if you read my last article you will already know my thoughts on him. He has great power but great temperament as well. When Salt is on top of his game he is a truly exhilarating talent and a great batsmen to just sit back and watch. An impressive 100 off 54 against Ireland, in a warm up game, had many speculating about a start for Salt. But it wasn’t meant to be yet when looking at England's options he is A. the closest to the squad and B. the best option there is. Salt makes the side and with Roy’s slump in form Salt could see himself handed his first cap sooner rather than later.
At number 3 it’s James Vince. Ok now before i get cancelled, here me out. It had to be Vince. Realistically there is no one else. Off course Malan could slot in here and work wonders but England clearly like Vince, at least in the 50 over side, and with the focus on the T20i’s England wouldn’t risk injuring Malan or taking away match experience in a franchise league for a few 50 over games. Vince is a beautiful cricketer we all know this, but Vinces beauty sleep seemingly comes between runs number 20 and 25. His cover drive and square cut are both amazing shots to watch and straight out of a textbook and his place in the side isn’t without merit, an amazing List A record with an average of 40 and a strike rate of 97, Vince is a valuable player to keep around. We are yet to see his consistent best in an England shirt with his standout knock coming in the first T20i against New Zealand in 2019 (a match winning 50). Yet the issues remain. A perfect description of Vince was put forward by Dan on the Golden Ducks Podcast when he said that Vince averages 25 in ODIs as he gets 25 runs and gets out. Vince doesn't really make a few low scores he makes 20-25 and the odd time a bit lower and one time a bit higher. Ah there's the issue with Vince he is consistently meh, never affecting games but always with flashes of brilliance.There is an argument to be made that his international experience is too small to call judgement on his career and i would feel inclined to agree with this. But with this side Vince is the only feasible option;who else England would choose to bat at number 3 should Root go down. James Vince is like heroin and as England fans we will never stop chasing the dragon of his cover drive.
At number 4 it’s the only man to make all three of these sides; Joe Denly. I have said most of what I have to say about Denly as a batsmen in parts 1 and 2 so here I will focus on him strictly as an ODI batsman. Joe Denly is a very accomplished ODI batsmen and actually should’ve played against Ireland in the summer. Impressive returns against South Africa (including a match winning 84) showed he has the application to make himself handy in a run chase especially when the top order collapsed. Denly had the power and shots to accelerate when needed and will be sad to, and not for the first time, miss out on a maiden international century. Denly is 34 but he is physically in great condition and offers a good amount in the field. It’s not hard to see why England keeps him around and I don't think many can disagree with this inclusion.
At number 5 take a wild guess who I may have chosen. Here’s a hint: I absolutely love him. Yup Tom Banton (queue you all being so so surprised). Alright England value Banton and want him in their ODI side and i need not explain why. Banton was a shoe in for the side, not only due to the parameters i set by myself but also due to my own affiliation with the young gun. His returns in ODIs have been middling, and despite a maiden half century this summer against Ireland (a knock that was a great supporting act to Eoin Morgan's hundred may i add) he was haunted by Kurtis Campher. Yet this is no reason to fret. We all know how good Banton is and I think we all want him to succeed. England clearly wants him to add that firepower to the middle order and it’s obvious he can do that; Banton’s 6 hitting ability is otherworldly. Banton is batting 5 and much like Denly I can't see any complaints with this one.
Number 6 was an obvious choice as it’s the coming of age story of the summer. Sam ‘bilbo’ Billings. Bilbo is a great cricketer and was supposed to be a part of the renovated side from 2015 when a string of disappointing performances saw him in and out of the side and then he picked up an injury just before the 2019 world cup. But 2020 saw Billings come into his own. Now a more senior member of the side; Billings relished his opportunity. Impressive match winning knocks against Ireland, a hundred in vain against a top notch Aussie attack, and a 50 in the final ODI of the summer Billings had arrived and in style. He averaged 75 with the bat last summer and has nearly cemented himself for the starting side. Nevertheless he’s not quite there with Stokes and Buttler the definitely better players. So he is part of this side. Billings is also taking the gloves and is captaining side, much like the T20i side. Billings rounds off the batsmen (though Denly and Livingstone may be allowed to throw down some filthy leggies).
Coming in at number 7 I went for Sam Curran. What is there to say that hasn’t already been said. Curran is a canny cricketer who is a lot smarter than he comes across. He has a great ability to read a batsmen and set them up, combining this with his bag of tricks and different kinds of deliveries the youngest brother is a real menace to face. His batting ability is top class with a surprising amount of power from his smaller frame and the ability to hit from ball one he is perfect for the number 7 spot. Had he not been in the test bubble this summer I have no doubt Curran would have played against Ireland in all three ODIs. Whilst he hasn’t excelled in the 50 over format Curran is just a good cricketer and one for England in all three formats for years to come. He is a born match winner and it’s exciting to think we’ve barely seen the best of him in the shorter forms of the game. (Oh and he makes things happen occasionally).
At number 8 I have opted for David Willey. I spoke about Willey in regards to the T20i side but in the ODI side the debate becomes a bit more skewed. The number 8 slot was between Willey and Jordan and in the end I opted for Willey due to his natural ability with the new ball and his probably superior batting (though their stats are very similar). Willey is a magnificent white ball bowler and his maiden ODI 5 for this summer against Ireland showed that. A shoe in for the world cup side until that man Jofra came along and tore everyone apart, Willey can feel hard done by in recent times. Nevertheless he is a natural white ball bowler and has shown some improvement with his death bowling (probably the main factor when deciding between him and Jofra). Whilst Willey is unlikely to replace either Archer or Woakes as the first choice opening bowler don’t be surprised to see him play some more over the coming series as England rest players for the T20is and tests. He was a certain pick for this side and we all know why. He is also the vice captain of the side.
At number 9 I went for Tom Curran. The eldest brother and the one who England seem to be persisting with the most. England persist with Tom Curran, despite a lack of form, and arguably for good reason. No one can forget when he lit up Perth to set up an England 4-1 win against Australia in their own backyard. But very rarely have we seen that same Curran and certainly not in the past few months. I won’t delve into the stats as they aren’t a fair reflection of Curran as a cricketer and he is still young and has the ability to develop into one of England's best white ball bowlers, or at least their most skillful. The eldest brother possesses a large bag of tricks each more deceiving and perplexing than the last and he just hasn’t cracked when to open the bag in the 50 over format. Curran can actually make a case to be a victim of England's success. In the ODIs when Woakes and Archer kept it so tight up top teams would then go after him as he was the weakest of the three and similar things would happen in the T20is. However this is beside the point. Curran slots in at number 9 and will most likely be first change after Sam and David swing it around corners. Currans inclusion in this side can be argued and I understand that but when put down to the criteria he makes the side. Curran does also have one ability that not many possess and that’s his ability to cope under pressure. He has a cool head and has much self assurance in him and his skills. I remember seeing Tom in the big bash last year carry the Sydney Sixers to a super over and then bowled a magnificent super over to seal them the derby win. Curran can be an electric cricketer and I get why England persist with him.
At number 10 I went for the spinner of the side. It was close between Matt Parkinson and the person I have chosen but Parkinson's middling record and disappointing performances in the one day arena meant I chose Liam Dawson. Liam Dawson has not played a lot of cricket for England but he has always been around. Dawson is a very well accomplished left arm spinner who set up value and rate highly. When fit he is undoubtedly the next in line if they chose to rest Rashid. Rashid is an integral part of the England white ball sides and is irreplaceable, but Dawson is most likely the next best option. He was a part of the England world cup side and it wouldn’t be surprising, when fully fit, to see him play a lot more next summer and winter. All in all he’s a good dependable cricketer who England rate, I rate and if he came into the side to rest Rashid there wouldn’t be many complaints.
At number 11 I went for a bit of a curveball and went for Olly Stone. Just behind Stuart Broad, Stone is my favourite England bowler and for good reason. He has a great action, serious pace and is just exciting, a real bums off seats player. England value him highly not only for the longest format but also for the shorter ones too with him being included in the tour to South Africa. Stones spell in the warm up game, in which he knocked over Johnny Bairstow, was great to watch and he fits into this side perfectly. Filling in the Mark Wood role of raw pace in the middle to rough batsmen up i believe Stone is one bowler who if fit could be one of England's best in recent times. He very comfortably slips into this side and brings a new dynamic to the team with his extra pace and bounce as well as movement. Whilst Injuries may be a concern this is also entirely hyperbolic and in my scenario he’s able to play every Ashes test next winter wins man of the series, bowls Davey Warner every time he picks up the ball and decides to do the same with a white ball for a laugh. Anyway Stone is the final piece of the puzzle in this side and the final piece in the series.
So there is the final side. Wow what a journey, but before i reflect on the series as a whole first let's break down the side. The opening pair is truly destructive and in another world could easily be England's first choice. The middle order is full of players who haven’t quite done it yet, except for Banton who’s not even had a true chance. The batting doesn’t lack depth though with everyone down to Dawson capable of chipping in with runs which will definitely help considering the bowling. Of course I need all of 7-10 to fill in their ten overs with Stone taking a few and Denly and Livingstone rolling their arm over every now and then. The side isn’t a world beater but it isn’t bad and would be able to compete on occasion.
From writing all of these I have learnt a few things. Denly didn’t earn the nickname dependable just because it makes nice alliteration, he truly is a valuable cricketer to England and he needs to stay involved in the set up. Tom Banton has barely had a chance and for a 22 year old has had massively impressive returns and is the future of England white ball cricket. David Willey can feel hard done by but it’s understandable why he hasn’t played. Sam Curran is much like Denly and he truly does make things happen. The strongest of the three sides is oddly enough none they’re all about the same each have weaknesses and strengths that vary.
But what about the question, “How Good are England?” Well they’re very very good and the squads drawn up prove that. Considering I was working in tighter parameters than you’d imagine, the sides all have players with good international experience and success as well as unproven youngsters, or middle aged sters, who have the ability to succeed at the highest level. If some of these players were in the England first teams i doubt there would be many complaints. English cricket is strong and the depth of the squads is slowly building and becoming one of the ECBs main strengths that they need to embrace.
Do you agree with the side and or my conclusions. Would you have made any changes? Let me know on Twitter @therunoutblog1