Moeen Ali’s absence from the first One-Day International against Pakistan today threw up another small selection dilemma for England ahead of the World Cup.
While Moeen’s rib injury isn’t serious, it meant Joe Denly was thrust into the spotlight to audition as the third spin option.
Unfortunately for him, the rain denied him a chance to show what he can do with his leg-spin and means the selectors are no closer to making their judgement on him.
Denly is obviously more of a batsman than a spin bowler, but having another skill has proven his way into England’s settled squad.
Like Moeen when he first came into the England set-up, his bowling is inconsistent and far from frontline. As we saw in his one expensive over in Sunday’s Twenty20 against Pakistan at Cardiff, there are frequent drag-downs.
Moeen has improved hugely over the years to become a genuine all-rounder, but I don’t feel Denly is at that level and we shouldn’t expect too much from his bowling.
The Kent man has found his way into the side at a perfect time and was picked in the preliminary 15-man squad as a spare batsman. If that’s the balance they want then he is deserving of his spot.
Don’t overthink it
Having the World Cup on home soil means the third spin option is not as important as it would be on the subcontinent, but if England really want a better spinner, then Hampshire’s Liam Dawson is unquestionably a better choice.
The left-armer has already played in all three formats for England so they know him, plus he’s in great form, having taken 17 wickets at an average of 18.65 and scored 246 runs at 49.20 in the One-Day Cup recently.
But at this late stage I really feel England should know exactly what they want from their squad and form shouldn’t weigh too heavily in their considerations.
It’s not the time to be making left-field decisions. Chief selector Ed Smith shouldn’t be overthinking it.
Besides, as we saw today – and with two wickets in the T20 World Cup final – Joe Root is very capable of making up the extra overs with his off-spin, especially when there are two left-handers at the crease.
With four ODIs still to play against Pakistan, I hope for his sake Denly can score some runs with the bat and take a few wickets to secure his place.
If there are any injuries, then having players in form like Dawson makes naming a replacement that much easier.
What today's shortened match at the Oval did show us, without any doubt, is that Jofra Archer is a world-class fast bowler in the making.
I mean no disrespect to England’s other bowlers when I say that he’s on a different level. He bowls stump-to-stump, consistently pushes over 90mph and troubles the best batsmen.
England simply have to pick him, so for me it’s about working out who is going to miss out. Everyone will be feeling the pressure and ultimately that’s not a bad position to be in.