Saturday, 3 March 2012

The men fighting for Eoin Morgan's place

Now Eoin Morgan has been dropped from the England test squad for Sri Lanka, a precious spot has opened up in the XI. Spots like this don't open up very often in the continuity based Strauss/Flower regime so there is plenty of competition for this one spot.

Ravi Bopara seems to be the preferred candidate of the England management. Whilst there are still doubts over his class at Test level, he is very much the next man in line, and this England team loath line-jumping. Bopara will almost certainly get his chance, even though there are many reasons why perhaps he shouldn't. 

One of those reasons is the balance that Tim Bresnan can bring to the team as an all-rounder. He'll never be as destructive a bowler or batter as Flintoff was on his best days, but other than that he could well end his career a better player. He's a technically correct and powerful batsman and chronically under-rated bowler who's won every Test match he's played for England. Slot Bresnan into the team and Prior has the chance to move up to No.6 and England can play five bowlers, with Panesar/Finn rotated in and out depending on conditions.

The other option for a batsman at No.6 in this tour at least is Samit Patel. In most series his selection would make a lot of sense, a powerful batsman for the lower order, and a second spinner. However after Monty Panesar's form in Pakistan it seems very unlikely he'll be omitted, and a third spinner would start to feel like overkill, even on Sri Lankan wickets.

In the long term the best prospects may not even be any of the ones in this squad. Since England use the No.6 position to blood their young players, if Bopara doesn't cement his place soon there will be a host of players creeping up on him with James Taylor the most likely to take over.

Whatever does happen, it's to be hoped that England don't pick a line-up in Sri Lanka and set it in stone. They've got to No.1 in the world by having continuity in selection, but now the way to stay there (or get back if South Africa win in New Zealand) is to have some kind of flexibility to conditions and different teams. England have used the squad system for their bowlers already, it may be time for them to use it for their batsmen.  

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