Don Topley: England World Cup squad looks good – but I fear there is one potential weak link
- Credit: PA
In his latest column, Don Topley runs the rule over England’s World Cup squad ahead of the start of the competition next week...
England have confirmed their 15-man squad for the World Cup which starts next Thursday - and three new players have been added.
Gone are Alex Hales, Joe Denly and the most contentious non-selection was that of ever-present left arm swing bowler, David Willey.
Willey is extremely unlucky not to be selected but with Jofra Archer's impressive England performances in the 4-0 drubbing (one rained off) of Pakistan, one of England's impressive and consistent white ball bowling units had to be omitted.
People will argue and confirm that it is 'professional sport', but these international bowlers are all human beings and have feelings. Willey will be desperately disappointed with the decision to omit him.
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He has bowled well for England for a good number of years and it also shows our strength in depth.
But the decision to cut Archer's qualification period from seven years to three, just months ago (and to be in line with other international boards) will not help any emotion. The timing of that England qualification amendment was seen worldwide as an agenda by England to fit Archer in.
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So, who are the lucky ones to deliver England's white ball: I have talked up Archer, who bowls quicker than most and has very good skills achieved by t20 cricket around the World. An excellent fielder, who can 'whack' a ball too.
The more experienced Chris Woakes is a cracking cricketer, bowling good pace with the new ball and has significant skills, including his disciplined 'Yorker' bowling at the death. The issue these days for Woakes is he has a degenerative knee condition which has to be managed at all times.
Liam Plunkett is heading towards the twilight of his international career and has a tremendous record. Re-invented himself at the t20 World Cup in India and has not looked back since.
He was possibly the initial favourite to be omitted but does a great job for Eoin Morgan in the middle overs, something Willey has never been asked to do. The ageing Plunkett has lost a little pace but still hits the deck hard and has recently found some form.
Tom Curran felt vulnerable with Archer about but has contributed much in this recent Pakistan ODI series. Loves a fight, he's a very aggressive cricketer, who has not only bowled well under pressure with his tremendous variety but has surprisingly batted extremely well towards the end of England's innings - a real modern-day three-dimensional cricketer.
Mark Wood is the quickest we have, and significantly faster than Archer. The Durham paceman is perpetually kept in cotton wool for fear of injury. Not bowled at all in any Championship or County cricket and has only bowled in one recent ODI v Pakistan.
There will be the continual issue of managing him between bowling enough to find rhythm and form, or bowling too much and gaining injuries.
All-rounder Ben Stokes was probably the first name down after the captain. Didn't have a great IPL and has started the season slowly, as he continues to wrestle with his permanently damaged finger on his bowling hand. As he matures, England may not get as much from his bowling, therefore becoming the genuine spare, sixth bowler in due course.
Part-time leggie and batsman, Joe Denly, has been replaced by Hampshire's Liam Dawson who is a genuine spinner who can bat. Dawson is an unglamorous but fabulous 'streetwise cricketer' who I expected to be in the initial squad. He has enjoyed a terrific 2019 50Over campaign in the Royal London One Day Cup. This was the right selection, made on form rather than on a 'hunch'.
England's batting is brave and entertaining with Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy opening up, with Joe Root being the glue around an array of terrific and belligerent stroke-makers.
Just one concern for me which will not be received well by journalists and others around the country.
Jos Buttler is simply amazing with the bat and can change a game - but so can his wicketkeeping in a negative way. He has previously struggled to read Denly's leg-spinners and has missed several elementary stumpings of late.
Not sure he is our very best keeper but please, don't miss a stumping in the semi-final!
Good luck England!