Now that the newly qualified Jofra Archer is a racing certainty to be included in England’s 15-man squad for the forthcoming Cricket World Cup, one of the seam bowlers who was named in the preliminary squad last month – and a player who will have been part of the fabric of the England ODI squad for at least the past 18 months (and rather longer if Tom Curran makes the cut) – is going to be mighty disappointed.
And it’s almost impossible to make a strong case for any particular player to be omitted. Which is not to say that each and every one of the endangered quintet – Chris Woakes, Liam Plunkett, Mark Wood, David Willey and Curran – have been consistently ripping up trees as England have risen to the top of the ODI rankings under the superlative captaincy of Eoin Morgan. It’s just that there’s precious little to choose between them.
They have all performed well with the ball at times and they’ve also had rather less successful days, as was witnessed at Bristol yesterday when Pakistan amassed 358-9 against an attack that included Woakes, Plunkett, Willey and Curran. Suffice to say, it’s largely been the batting that has been the cornerstone of England’s recent successes – à la Bristol yesterday.
Before the start of the season, Wood, Woakes and Willey all questioned (not in an unpleasant way, it should be said) the wisdom and fairness of the potential selection of Archer, whose qualification to play for England was made possible by the ECB’s decision late last year to reduce the residency requirement from seven years to three. Would Archer’s selection damage the strong team spirit that Morgan has carefully built up over the course of the past four years?
Archer, who was born in Barbados but has an English father and a British passport, made his potential World Cup selection a superfluous issue with a wonderfully penetrative and distinctly rapid four overs in the rain-ruined first game of this five-match ODI series against Pakistan. Any doubts that anyone may have harboured about Archer’s suitability to be fast-tracked into England’s World Cup squad, which will be named next week, had been dismissed in a matter of minutes. And besides, Archer has the reputation of being a likeable and relaxed character who will fit into any dressing-room.
So, who will be the unfortunate England bowler to miss the World Cup boat? Woakes, who seems to have regained some of his nip, and the pacey Wood look pretty nailed-on while many observers seem to believe that the variety of Willey’s left-arm swing should be sufficient to secure his berth. And that the final place is therefore a straight shoot-out between Plunkett and Curran.
I think Willey could be the one to miss out. It’s all very well having a left-arm swing bowler as part of a varied attack that also includes finger spin and wrist spin. But Willey’s lack of effectiveness after any early swing has disappeared could be the deciding factor. We shall see.