England crisis creates World Cup openings

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The Independent Online

There are several England players here who have far more to play for in the two remaining Commonwealth Bank Series group games than a place in the finals against Australia. England's hugely disappointing form means that World Cup places could yet be grabbed by latecomers who show a bit of talent and nous.

Michael Vaughan, if fit, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff and Monty Panesar, along with an injury-free James Anderson and Jon Lewis are certainties for the West Indies in a month. The remaining seven spots in the 15-man squad are there for the taking.

Malachy Loye will probably travel to the Caribbean because he offers a different option at the top of the order but needs to show he can put together an innings at this level and that he is not a one-trick pony. It is all fine and dandy sweeping good-length balls from Brett Lee and Shane Bond over the leg-side boundary for six but you can look foolish when you keep feeding the slip cordon with catching practice in the next over.

Andrew Strauss' demotion to No 4 can hardly be viewed as a positive move. By taking the decision England have stated that they do not think he is up to opening. It now appears that Loye or Ed Joyce will open with Vaughan, and that Strauss will not be in England's strongest side.

Bell has shown enough promise to hold on to the No 3 spot and there are more capable players than Strauss - Pietersen, Collingwood and Flintoff - in the middle order. If Vaughan is injured, Strauss should captain the side and he may well act as England's emergency wicketkeeper.

Joyce needed his innings of 66 against New Zealand on Tuesday to prove his doubters wrong. He probably needs a couple more scores to become an automatic selection, but the manner in which he collected his runs showed his class.

Joyce's best batting position is yet to be found but it is to be hoped that England do not discard him at the end of the World Cup. He has a talent and personality that it would be ill-advised to ignore.

Paul Nixon could not win on Tuesday when he scored 49 against New Zealand. Many believe that the uncompetitive nature of the cricket meant that his score proved very little. But had he failed he would have been criticised. The selectors may feel that the innings justifies his selection. I am not so sure. Chris Read is the man.

Jamie Dalrymple made an impressive start last summer but his form has tailed off. By failing to make the most of the chances he has allowed the selectors to consider Ashley Giles.

The final two places belong to fast bowlers. Liam Plunkett has probably done enough to secure one of the spots, but Chris Tremlett failed to impress in Perth. Tremlett is 6ft 8in tall and weighs about 110kg but he does not possess a presence on the field. He looks uncertain and timid and this must change if he is to fulfil his undoubted potential.

The England selectors may feel that now is the time to bring in Stuart Broad. Broad is a young and inexperienced fast bowler but he seems to have a bit about him, and he can bat, too.

Heavy rain greeted England's arrival here for tomorrow's must-win game against Australia. Should the weather continue, as it is forecast, England could yet pick up two unexpected points against Ricky Ponting's undefeated side.

An abandoned match would leave England only needing to defeat New Zealand in Brisbane on Tuesday to reach the finals.

Six players on the edge

Mal Loye Opener must show he is not a one-trick pony.

Andrew Strauss Demotion to No 4 can hardly be seen as a positive move.

Ed Joyce Needs a couple of big scores to become an automatic selection.

Paul Nixon His innings of 49 against New Zealand proved very little.

James Dalrymple Form has tailed off this winter.

Chris Tremlett Physically impressive, but does not possess a presence on the field.