The Cricket World Cup is lurching ever closer and with just 44 days to go until the hosts kick things off against South Africa at the Oval we’ve reached a significant step.
England will name their provisional 15-man squad tomorrow ahead of the 23 April deadline.
Although they can make alterations up until 23 May – a week before the tournament starts – their initial selections are likely to hold firm, barring any injuries.
What factors will have weighed on the minds of coach Trevor Bayliss, selector Ed Smith and captain Eoin Morgan?
Stick or twist?
England are world No1, favourites and a settled side on a consistent run. Since the last World Cup they’ve improved, developed an aggressive style and landed on a group of seasoned performers. As such there are few things left to work out. They have an embarrassment of riches, meaning some excellent players are bound to miss out.
The top seven is a near-certainty: Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali.
Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett and David Willey are key members of the squad, while Alex Hales is the back-up batsman. That leaves three places with question marks, with Morgan confirming that he “probably sees the bowling line-up changing more than our batting”.
The major talking point over the past few months has been Jofra Archer, with Sussex's Barbados-born all-rounder available following a change of England’s eligibility rules.
Archer’s pace, variations, brilliant fielding and eye-catching performances in Twenty20 means he has an X-factor England can hardly ignore.
“The hype about Jofra playing around the world and doing well and attracting a lot of attention is justified as he has put in performances that warrant looking at,” Morgan said last month.
England play Pakistan in five One-Day Internationals in May and Archer is set to be given a chance to impress. The only uncertainty is whether he’ll be named in the squad, or asked to prove himself against Pakistan first.
Moeen and Rashid are the bedrock of England’s white-ball attack – but does the squad need an alternative spinner?
Joe Root’s off-spin is handy, yet maybe not reliable enough to count upon in the middle overs of an important tournament.
The alternatives are Hampshire all-rounder Liam Dawson, who bowls tidy left-arm spin but has played just three ODIs, or Kent’s Joe Denly, who offers leg-spin.
With the World Cup at home and two quality operators already in the squad, an additional spinner may be seen as an unnecessary addition.
Currans in competition
Sam and Tom Curran have impressed on international duty, but with Woakes, Willey and Plunkett settled and Archer and Mark Wood offering pace they face fierce competition.
Tom is more experienced with 13 ODIs to his younger brother’s two, while Sam’s left-arm variation spot may already be occupied by Willey, who played exceptionally in the 3-0 T20 whitewash of the West Indies.
When you throw Chris Jordan into the mix the selectors have depth to choose from but just two spaces to fill.
Hales, with six hundreds and an average of 37.79 from 70 ODIs, is unfortunate not to be in the side and is instead nailed down as reserve. The question is, with four players on the sidelines, do England need another batsman?
Denly is perhaps the next in line, having played the T20s last month alongside Kent team-mate Sam Billings, while James Vince and Dawid Malan are other alternatives.
With settled batting unit inside a team that bats right down to No10, bowlers will likely be prioritised.
|1. Jason Roy|
|2. Jonny Bairstow|
|3. Joe Root|
|4. Eoin Morgan (c)|
|5. Ben Stokes|
6. Jos Buttler (wkt)
|7. Moeen Ali|
|8. Chris Woakes|
|9. Adil Rashid|
|10. Liam Plunkett|
|11. David Willey|
|12. Alex Hales|
|In the mix:|