Nick Knight: Captain Cook must get runs or hand opening place to Hales and World Cup leadership to Morgan

COMMENT: Our one-day cricket has always been second-class to Test matches

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The Independent Online

Alastair Cook has got to start scoring runs or he should not go to the World Cup. England have shown themselves to be confused in terms of selection, method and strategy – and they have been for some time.

Our one-day cricket has always been a second-class citizen to Test matches. But now they’ve had three or four months to focus on the one-dayers exclusively.

In that time they have come up with Moeen Ali, and they’ve found a little gem at the top of the order. And I definitely saw an improvement in the way they approached their batting in the first game against Sri Lanka. But I have to say Alex Hales has been very unlucky. England have made it clear that they will stick with Cook, but Hales should be opening with Moeen.

Cook must get runs in these next six games in Sri Lanka or he simply can’t take his place in the World Cup squad in the new year. He needs to play with conviction and find his best form. It’s not too late for him, but also it’s not too late to make a change. Eoin Morgan can take over as captain.

Moeen’s great. He has proved that you don’t need to spend every day pumping iron in the gym so you can wield those big, heavy bats. It’s not all about bish-bosh. Moeen’s the slightest guy in the squad.

His emergence is not just good for England, it’s good for the game in general. He works out his angles, he has sublime timing and an audacious approach. His strengths are playing with high hands, hitting down on top of the ball, staying leg-side with very little movement.

Morgan is having a lean time too, but he understands and loves one-day cricket. He’s a world-class one-day player, and there are five or six very good ones. This combination should be winning more games.

England have to play Steve Finn at the World Cup. He is injured at the moment but I see him as a definite starter, alongside Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad.

The pace bowling attack was not effective in the first game on Wednesday but for me all those bowlers are basically competing for one place. England must have a more aggressive approach and unleash Finn in the middle overs. It’s another thing for Cook to do: adjust his tactics.

Anyone who can bowl at 90mph plus, give him three overs with the slips in place. If it costs a few boundaries, then so be it – England need to take wickets.

Hughes horror was a freak but it will change the game

I faced the fastest ball ever bowled, from Shoaib Akhtar in the 2003 World Cup in South Africa. It was over 100mph, but facing fast bowling is what I did.

Call it complacency or naïvety, but I thought I was safe. I can honestly say that at no point in my entire career did I think I was in danger of serious injury. Clearly, I’d feel differently now, and that’s how the game has changed over the last 48 hours.

For me, playing the short ball was instinctive, something you didn’t think about. Fast bowling is part of the game; more than that, it was what gave me the buzz. Facing 90 or 100mph deliveries and getting through it is all part of the test you face as a cricketer.

Participation levels are falling in England in the recreational game, so it would not be surprising if youngsters might be worried. But I would say to them that the Phil Hughes incident was a very freakish one.

The one thing that will now change is the attitude to health and safety. The helmet manufacturers and the game’s administrators will have to look into that. The players will need to know that they are being looked after.

The way batsmen handle the short ball has obviously changed since the arrival of helmets. So it might be time for coaches to have a rethink about how they teach players to deal with bouncers. If you talk to the old pros they will tell you that they used to have to watch the ball a little bit longer.

But when I played, I felt immune. If I got knocked over I would just dust myself down and get on with it. And I got hit on the helmet a lot – I’m not sure why.

In association with Sky Sports.

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