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England v Pakistan

Four ways England could squeeze Liam Livingstone into their first choice T20I XI

Yas Rana by Yas Rana
@Yas_Wisden 3 minute read

A progressing storyline in the ongoing England-Pakistan series has been the impressive performances of players who probably weren’t in Eoin Morgan’s first choice T20I XI at the start of the series.

Liam Livingstone, Moeen Ali, Matt Parkinson and Saqib Mahmood have all excelled, with the former putting forward a particularly compelling case for automatic selection in Morgan’s side at the T20 World Cup.

Getting Livingstone into the XI isn’t straightforward. One would assume Morgan and Ben Stokes – both missing from today’s T20I – are nailed on starters. With that in mind, here are four ways in which England can squeeze Livingstone in their first choice XI:

Drop Roy, open with Malan, Stokes at three

Jason Roy’s T20I numbers don’t leap off the page in the same way that his ODI record does. It’s good without being remarkable, and with the options England have at their disposal – where the majority of their batsmen prefer batting at the top of the order – it might not be enough.

That said, as has been argued before on this website, Jason Roy is England’s powerplay specialist. Even when going through a rut, he very rarely eats up balls to the detriment of his side. Morgan likes his side to go hard in the powerplay and Roy is the batsman who generally sets the tone his captain is after. For that reason, it is unlikely to see Roy jettisoned this close to the T20 World Cup.

Malan opening and Stokes slotting in at three would vacate a slot in the side for Livingstone lower down the order.

Drop Malan, Stokes at three

Dawid Malan is still the number one ranked T20I batsman in the world but his returns have diminished in 2021. After 10 matches in 2021 he averages 26.33 with a strike-rate of 117.91 – for some, this dip is simply a reversion to the mean for a player who despite boasting a very good domestic record, rarely suggested he was a world-beater in waiting in the T20 Blast.

Again, dropping Malan this close to the T20 World Cup would be extremely harsh. But part of Malan and Roy’s ‘problem’ is that England haven’t really got the best out of Ben Stokes in T20I cricket and Stokes has shown that he can be a devastating top order T20 batsman in recent editions of the IPL.

Drop Malan and Sam Curran and bring in Moeen and Livingstone

Another talking point from today’s game was Moeen’s performance batting at four, something he’s only done twice for England since the 2016 World T20. He has shown in the IPL – most notably for MS Dhoni’s CSK – that he is a very good top- and middle-order batsman, something he’s rarely had the opportunity to prove for England.

If England looked to bring both Moeen and Livingstone into the side, they could reasonably expect the pair to combine with Stokes to act as the side’s fifth bowler. That said, this would involve dropping Sam Curran who is becoming an increasingly important member of Morgan’s squad.

Drop Morgan or Stokes

To be clear, I’m not advocating this for a second but there will be some who’ll look at the numbers and conclude that, on form, Livingstone is the more compelling middle-order pick. Morgan, in particular, is going through a lean spell, averaging just a smudge over 10 in T20I cricket this year while England have rarely seen the best of Stokes in the format.

Morgan has publicly stated that he would drop himself if required but it’s not something he should seriously consider; his importance to this team goes well beyond the runs that come off his blade.

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