Wednesday 20 February 2019 8:32 pm

Chris Tremlett: Competition for places among England’s bowlers puts them in excellent position for the World Cup

With 99 days to go until the World Cup England are looking very settled as a side. Eoin Morgan’s team are in the Caribbean for a five-match one-day series which will hopefully build more confidence ahead of the opening game against South Africa at The Oval on 30 May.

The batting order is pretty much set in stone, with Alex Hales currently the unfortunate man left on the outside, but there is some uncertainty in the bowling department.

Mark Wood’s man-of-the-match performance in a consolation win in the final Test match in St Lucia has propelled him back into the side.

Fine line

Like most, Wood was on the end of Chris Gayle’s powerful ball-striking in the first one-day international, going for 0-49 from seven overs to highlight just what a fine line pace bowling is.

Sometimes on slower pitches the ball coming onto the bat makes it easier, so you need to mix it up and be able to bowl slower balls. I think for Wood to earn his place in the side he needs to be fit, firing on all cylinders and bowling flat-out at his 90mph best.

That will be the case even more so when Jofra Archer becomes eligible for selection next month to up the competition for places even further.

I’ve written before that I think the Sussex all-rounder is a special talent who deserves to go straight into the squad, and the fact he can consistently bowl at high pace makes him even more exciting.

Archer can open the bowling, contain in the middle overs and mix it up at the death and, at age 23, is exactly the kind of player they need going forward.

With Chris Woakes, Liam Plunkett and Ben Stokes the other seam bowlers in the first ODI team alongside Tom Curran and David Willey in the squad, England have decisions to make between now and the World Cup.

Winning formula

Having turned around their fortunes since a group stage exit at the 2015 edition, I think captain Morgan, coach Trevor Bayliss and selector Ed Smith will stick with the group who have made them into the No1-ranked side.

There’s no sense in changing a winning formula at this late stage; they have learnt their lesson from 2015, when Gary Ballance came into the team at the last minute.

Archer is an exception and the only alteration that I can see happening, meaning the places of Curran and Joe Denly are the most under threat in my view.

Curran has earned a reputation as a death-bowling specialist, has a real bag of tricks and performed well at the Big Bash recently, but I feel his similarity to the experienced duo of Woakes and Plunkett counts against him.

Plunkett’s place has often been said to be under pressure over the past few years but he always avoids being dropped because he’s consistent, canny and has the happy knack of taking wickets.

Denly, meanwhile, is behind Hales in the batting pecking order, so could perhaps be dropped for Archer if England felt they had to make room for him elsewhere.

England still have eight ODIs before the start of the World Cup, so there’s time for them to experiment with different bowling line-ups. It’s all about being adaptable.

Overall they’re in a brilliant position, with competition for places keeping everyone on their toes as the World Cup gets ever closer.


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