Tuesday, 30 May 2017

ICC Champions Trophy: Questions for England ahead of tournament

ICC Champions Trophy: Questions for England ahead of tournament

Should Roy or Bairstow open? Will Stokes be fit? Can England win?


Should Jonny Bairstow open the batting for England at the Champions Trophy?
Should Jonny Bairstow open the batting for England at the Champions Trophy?
England head into the Champions Trophy with an ODI series win over No 1 side in the world South Africa, though they did fluff their lines in defeat at Lord's.

So ahead of the tournament's start on Thursday, with the hosts facing Bangladesh at The Oval - live on Sky Sports 2 from 10am - what are the key questions still facing England?

England vs Bangladesh

How do they fit Jonny Bairstow into the side? Should they stick with the out-of-sorts Jason Roy? What's the latest on Ben Stokes' knee injury? And can England win the tournament? We asked Sky Sports' Nasser Hussain and Sir Ian Botham…

Should Roy keep his place?

Nasser Hussain: Roy has got three low scores in this series, and if you look at his last eight or so innings, he has only got one fifty. He is out of nick.

But the thing I'd say is, we've been here before on the eve of a major tournament and we make a big change - it just strikes a little bit of panic.

England do go hard at the top of the order, that's why we have to give Roy a little bit of leeway. He has to face some fantastic opening bowlers, two new white balls, and his job is to go hard. So occasionally he will be out of nick, occasionally he will have spells like this.
Highlights of the third ODI between England and South Africa at Lord's
Highlights of the third ODI between England and South Africa at Lord's
It's a little bit of a lesson to Roy - I've watched him over the last couple of years, and he is a man with an incredible amount of ability, but I sometimes think he gives it away. He gets to 30-odd and he gets a little arrogant - that swagger we so often like - and gets out. When he gets in, he needs to kick on and get big 100s, 150s - remember this spell of low scores when people were talking about leaving you out, and just be a bit more ruthless.

Could Bairstow come in as opener?

Ian Botham: He's a very good player, Bairstow. If you looked at England's openers and Bairstow - who would you pick purely as the best player at the moment? You'd probably go with Jonny on current form.
He opens in white-ball cricket for Yorkshire, he has scored big runs, but there's a difference in the type of attacks he'd face at the Champions Trophy, so that's why I wouldn't change it. These are the guys that have done it, that have got us here - we've scored more runs than anyone else since the 2015 World Cup, so why change it?

Nasser: What I took from Trevor Bayliss' interview after the defeat at Lord's is that they're going to have to think about it - but not as a criticism of Roy, but because Bairstow is a serious cricketer and he keeps showing us how good he is.
England coach Trevor Bayliss speaks after the third ODI defeat to South Africa at Lord's
England coach Trevor Bayliss speaks after the third ODI defeat to South Africa at Lord's
But you'd be going into a world tournament with an opener who has never done it before in international cricket. Roy goes to his home ground on Thursday, you say to him you've got a couple of games, but if you don't do it, we've got a very good replacement ready to take your place.

There is another option, in perhaps Moeen Ali moving up to open, and Bairstow batting in the position he normally does for England. But then you're disrupting two positions.

What's going on with Stokes?

Botham: He is the genuine allrounder. He is good enough to be in the side for his bowling and batting. Also, don't forget his fielding - he brings a lot to the party, possibly the best England fielder.

He is having a problem with this knee injury, but you talk to him about it and he doesn't understand why it is aggravating him like this. He is tough, a hard competitor, so I expect to see him out there playing on Thursday.

He'll manage the problem and get round it, I'm sure of that. It can't be a ridiculously serious injury, as he does everything else but bowl with it.
Ben Stokes has struggled with a knee injury that prevented him bowling for large parts of the South Africa series
Ben Stokes has struggled with a knee injury that prevented him bowling for large parts of the South Africa series
Nasser: He does everything like a maniac. He is a maniac full stop to be honest. I'd be surprised if in any of those Champions Trophy games he bowls his full quota of 10 overs though.

When he first came into the England side, they played him as a bowler who batted at No 8. But Paul Collingwood was saying, 'this is ridiculous, you've got to get him up the order'.

Colly's words are ringing true at the moment - I see him as a batsman who will bowl six, seven, eight overs - a bit at the death - and then Moeen Ali fills the rest of those overs. He is well capable, fitness-wise, of doing that.

Can England win the tournament?

Botham: England are in a very healthy position. I can see them winning it, yes. They'll be up for the fight - that's what I like about this team, they're aggressive.

There are three or four other sides who will also be up there, knocking on the door - never write Australia off, New Zealand have proven that they're a very good white-ball team and there's India with great players like Virat Kohli.

It's a wide open tournament, probably the most wide open one in a long time - any of the eight sides could win it if everything falls into place for them. You have to have a little bit of luck, but I can see England winning it.
Michael Atherton speaks with captains AB de Villiers and Eoin Morgan following the third ODI between England and South Africa
Michael Atherton speaks with captains AB de Villiers and Eoin Morgan following the third ODI between England and South Africa
Nasser: The key man for England is Eoin Morgan, his captaincy has gone through the roof and he is batting really well at the moment.

That's a lesson for Roy, as eight games ago everyone was going on about Morgan and should he be in the side? Look at the way he is playing now.


Having said that, he has had two poor world tournaments - at the 2015 World Cup he had a highest score of about 40, and at the 2016 World T20, he had a highest score of about 25. The captain is now at the right age now to have a good world global tournament. It will be a massive bonus if he can do that.

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