England ready to flex their muscles on new stage
Selectors lean heavily on players who helped win World Twenty20 for series against Australia
Carried away on a tide of Twenty20 glory, England's selectors yesterday declared their intention to repeat the trick in the World Cup. They made it clear that the brand of cricket which took them to such unexpected, not to mention overwhelming triumph in the shortest form of the game in the Caribbean last month, will serve just as well for the 50-over version in Asia next year.
It will be athletic, robust and determinedly attacking. In naming 13 players for a one-day international against Scotland and a five-match series against Australia, they leaned heavily on those who won the World Twenty20 in such style. Craig Kieswetter has kept his place ahead of Matt Prior, and Mike Yardy, the Sussex batsman is also included for his left-arm spin.
Both played significant roles in helping England to their first major limited overs trophy after 18 failed attempts. To show that more orthodox batsmanship still counts for something, there was an entirely justified recall for Ian Bell. But Bell too has had to buy into the new method with his four rapid fifties in seven Clydesdale Bank 40 innings this summer being sturdy evidence.
England have a probable 21 one-day matches between now and the start of the World Cup next February. It is their objective to refine the muscular approach which has pervaded all three elements of their game in the last nine months, starting with the Champions Trophy last September.
One of the two main orchestrators of this is Andrew Strauss, the captain, who overhauled England's philosophy with the coach, Andy Flower – which is why suggestions that his place was vulnerable were at best premature, at worst uninformed nonsense. Strauss needs some runs in the sense that batsmen always need runs but it is clear that England want him to be at the helm come the sub-continental World Cup.
Geoff Miller, the chairman of selectors, said yesterday: "I was misinterpreted in some comments I made about Andrew earlier this week. Of course we're looking at all our players all the time but Andrew is our captain and there should be no mistake about that." In other words, if Strauss loses form – and it is 10 one-day innings since his last fifty – then he will be subject to the same scrutiny as any player but England want him.
It is true that the series against Australia, if nothing else (and there really is nothing else) will help to determine how far England have come. Although they took their oldest rival to the cleaners in the World Twenty20, dramatically winning a one-sided final with three overs left, they themselves were similarly overwhelmed in the Champions Trophy semi-final between the sides.
There is a difference between the two limited overs versions of the game and to that extent there is a slight risk in England's chosen strategy. A gung-ho approach is not always effective or necessary, though if they can amend attitudes in the middle of an innings they will have achieved something truly revolutionary.
Kieswetter has unquestionably cut the mustard in his short international career so far. He made a century in only his third ODI innings and played his role as opening aggressor in the World Twenty20 with some zest. But he looks limited at present in his slugging capabilities and his wicketkeeping is not the cleanest. Prior has had many opportunities and a one-day batting average of 25 should be at least five points higher.
While Miller was hardly about to write him off – and he may well claim the wicketkeeper's berth for the England Lions who are taking part in a triangular 50-over tournament with India A and West Indies A – the more likely scenario is that he is also under pressure for his Test place. The selectors clearly see something in Kieswetter, but they would jettison Prior at their peril. Not only have they invested a great deal in him but England have waited a long time for a settled wicketkeeper-batsman and Prior is a particularly unselfish, as well as stylish, cricketer.
Yardy's England career completes its renaissance, having seemingly been laid to rest three years ago. Initially recalled to bowl slow left-arm dart balls, which often turned out to be dot balls, in the World Twenty20, he has now been recalled to the 50-over cadre with an eye on the slow, low pitches of the sub-continent. It makes sense, but there is a difference between bowling four overs and 10. Bell will probably start as the spare batsman but that may not last.
To all-round relief (and that would not necessarily have been the reaction six months ago) Tim Bresnan is back on duty after a foot injury kept him out of the second Test against Bangladesh. There is no place (but read that as yet) for his fellow Yorkshireman, Ajmal Shahzad.
England one-day squad
AJ Strauss (captain, Middlesex) JM Anderson (Lancashire) TT Bresnan (Yorkshire) IR Bell (Warwickshire) SCJ Broad (Nottinghamshire) PD Collingwood (Durham) C Kieswetter (wkt, Somerset) EJG Morgan (Middlesex) KP Pietersen (Hampshire) RJ Sidebottom (Nottinghamshire) GP Swann (Nottinghamshire) LJ Wright (Sussex) MH Yardy (Sussex)
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