Bullish Strauss happy to chop and change his opening partner

Bopara likely to be latest experiment at top of order as England meet Bangladesh today

Something odd has happened to the state of England since last Sunday. By any normal lights they should have spent the week skulking around what parts of this city it is possible to skulk around, feeling slightly sorry for themselves.

They have lost two of their marquee players, their prospect of progress in the World Cup remains in the balance and any sense of regular fluency in their cricket has been elusive. Yet they have been cheerful and relaxed.

The departures in rapid succession of Kevin Pietersen and Stuart Broad appear to have been seamlessly absorbed by the addition of Eoin Morgan and Chris Tremlett and the edgy, improbable win against South Africa provided them with a renewed belief in themselves that straight-forward, seen -it-coming-for-miles wins cannot instil. A third Group B victory today over Bangladesh will bring the quarter-finals looming into view.

Twice in this tournament, England have come back when all looked lost. Against India they managed to tie to overcome a clatter of wickets which made defeat look certain. Against South Africa, defending a total of 171, they contrived somehow to bowl their opponents out seven runs short of their target.

True, the comebacks sandwiched the match against Ireland, when England suffered one of the most astonishing reversals in their history, but that too is being treated as a learning experience. Call that insufferably smug, but it is to England's credit that they have made no excuses for insipid displays.

When they have bowled and fielded badly there have been none of the characteristic excuses of the professional sportsman. They have conceded their shortcomings, thus taking some of the wind from the sails of their critics. So at ease with themselves do they now appear that Andrew Strauss, their captain, could talk openly yesterday about changing his batting order to suit conditions.

He said it because England have been forced into change by Pietersen's withdrawal from the tournament with a hernia. It meant that England have to find a replacement as opening batsman and whether it is Ravi Bopara or Matt Prior today (Strauss was not saying but Prior is out of form and Bopara is not, so only one option makes any selectorial sense) it may not stay that way.

"I don't think we're nailed on to playing the same opening partnership all the way through," said Strauss. "But for the time being we have got to play ideally what the right combination at the top is. But there is no reason why you can't think of changing if circumstances arise and if they do we'll do that."

There are two ways of looking at such a policy: either they are so sure of themselves that they can change their balance accordingly even with something as delicate as the opening batsmen, or that they are in such a muddle they do not know who should really open as witnessed by the decision to ask Pietersen, once their best man in the middle order.

There was some speculation that England might play three spinners in the match. Observers always become a little frenzied about spinning in the subcontinent, as though it is the only way to take wickets and contain. Bangladesh play lots of spinners, not only because of the surfaces, but because of the standard of their seamers.

England do not have that shortage. In Chittagong a year ago they made do with one spinner, though Pietersen had to back him up with eight overs. Three spinners, to include James Tredwell, would go against the policy of picking the best available bowlers. Tredwell has not had enough cricket. It is, however, coming to something when Pietersen seems to be missed as much for his occasional off-breaks as his once blistering batting.

The England management team spent half an hour in close talks round the pitch in Chittagong yesterday. They bounced balls on it, they mused and muttered and opined about what it might and might not do. They looked as though they meant business.

Bangladesh are aware that anything other than a win is likely to spell the end of their World Cup dream. And it was a dream – playing a World Cup quarter-final in Dhaka.

The need to win will place an extra burden on them today and nothing suggests they are capable of carrying it. They are already fearful of the reaction they may receive from the crowd and security will not be lessened for a second. The ICC want no repeats of the stoning of the coaches that followed Bangladesh's defeat against West Indies.

Strauss said: "It has been very unpredictable and I would like to it to have a lot more predictability. We need to get that right in the next two games."

Teams and pitch report

Bangladesh (probable): Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Junaid Siddique, Mushfiqur Rahim (wkt), Shakib al Hasan (capt), Raqibul Hasan, Mahmadullah, Naeem Islam, ASbdur Raazak, Shafiul Islam, Rubel Hossain.

England (probable): A J Strauss (capt), RS Bopara, IJL Trott, IR Bell, EJG Morgan, MJ Prior (wkt), MJ Yardy, TT Bresnan, GP Swann, A Shahzad, JM Anderson.

Pitch Dry and likely to take lots of turn but helpful to clever seam bowling.

TV Sky Sports 1, 8am-5.30pm

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee