The exclusion of uncapped all-rounder Jofra Archer was the biggest talking point as host nation England announced their preliminary 15-man ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup squad.
From the back-up spinner to the back-up back-up batsman, we take a look at some of the major things to note following the announcement.
No Jofra... yet
It was the question on everyone’s lips, and virtually all England’s current crop of players had their say on whether the mercurial, prodigious all-rounder, who has starred in T20 leagues around the world but is yet to debut for England, having only qualified on 17 March, should get a World Cup call-up.
Now we know, sort of. He’s not in the 15-man preliminary squad, but he has been picked to play Ireland and Pakistan in seven games which precede the cut-off date for finalising the World Cup squad. Should he make the step-up to international cricket seamlessly, the desire to add him to that squad could prove too tough to ignore.
A lifeline for Jordan
Archer isn’t the only Barbados-born yorker specialist to be simultaneously out of the squad but in contention. Chris Jordan hasn’t played an ODI since 2016, and had been earmarked as a T20 specialist. But through strong performances in the shortest format against West Indies, he has also been selected to face Ireland and Pakistan. Should he impress, a remarkable World Cup call-up may beckon.
Denly defeats Dawson
In an ideal world, your back-up spinner probably doesn’t play a World Cup game. But they remain a vital cog in the squad, ideally a level-headed cool customer who can turn up and do a job at the drop of a hat, or the twist of an ankle. Joe Denly, primarily a batsman who’s developed his leg-spin to be more than part-time, and Liam Dawson, a left-arm spinner and lower-order hitter, had emerged as the two potential deputies to Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid, with both earning selection for England’s tour of Sri Lanka.
With Denly’s selection, and by the fact that Dawson appears in none of the three squads announced, it’s clear who came out on top. Perhaps weighing in Denly's favour was that he gives the ball a proper rip, making him a potential wicket-taking replacement for the threat that Rashid offers. If Moeen comes a cropper, Joe Root’s bag of tricks could serve tidily enough as a fill-in option. Nevertheless, Denly can’t rest easy quite yet.
Bowlers still have plenty to prove
England selector Ed Smith has made it clear the pre-World Cup ODIs (and one-off T20I v Pakistan) are as much audition as rehearsal, with Jordan and Archer snapping at the heels of those in the preliminary squad. Perhaps with the exception of attack leader Chris Woakes, none of the quicks can feel truly secure.
There has also been suggestion that England may go into the World Cup without a back-up spinner, allowing them to pick one of Archer or Jordan, reasoning that all the quicks perform subtley different roles, and therefore all warrant inclusion.
Billings and Vince face off
That Alex Hales is England’s premier back-up ODI batsman was not in doubt. Who comes into the squad if he or one of the regular batsmen get injured is less clear cut. Plenty of the mainstays have been rested for England’s ODI against Ireland and T20I against Pakistan, with Sam Billings and James Vince both included and likely to play.
The role of the back-up to the back-up could well be served by whichever of the two impresses most in those two games.
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