Who could bat in England’s World Cup top six but didn’t play the South Africa ODIs?
After mixed results with the bat in South Africa, England have plenty of options ready to come into their top six for the World Cup in October.
Jos Buttler is alone in the batting lineup from the South Africa series as being certain of a place in the first choice XI by the time of the World Cup. None of the rest have either done enough to absolutely guarantee their spot or demonstrate themselves as significantly better than those waiting to come back in.
Despite an excellent century in the final ODI, Malan will once again be at the mercy of the form and fitness of those who have featured more consistently England’s ODI planning over the last few years. Jason Roy’s two low scores after his first match hundred mean concerns over his form haven’t been laid to rest, and Moeen Ali’s role in the side remains under scrutiny. With that in mind, here are the other batters who could find their way into England’s World Cup top-six.
As soon as his leg allows, Bairstow should be straight back into England’s ODI side. One of the best openers in the world in the format, unless injury intervenes, England will go into the tournament with him at the top of the order.
Although he has opted out of next month’s tour of Bangladesh in order to play franchise cricket, Hales could still make a comeback not unlike the one he did for the T20 World Cup last year. Should Bairstow’s injury lay-off lengthen or Roy’s form fail to recover, Hales provides an almost like-for-like option. It’s worth remembering that before he was dropped in 2019, he was a near-constant fixture in the England squad.
Salt has slipped down the pecking order slightly in South Africa. Although he scored his maiden hundred in the format last year, Malan has been favoured over him as an opener since the third match of the ODI series in Australia last December. However, he still averages 45.11 and his strike rate of 132.24 is the highest of all those in the race for the top two positions.
Very little could stop Root from slotting back into the side at No.3. Regardless of his returns in the 12 ODIs he’s played since 2019, his quality in the format should be undisputed as one of the all-time great ODI batters.
It looks like a tough road back for Vince into the World Cup squad. He’s featured in at least one England ODI side every year since 2015 but with Root at three and plenty of other favourable options to open and at four, only a catastrophic loss of form or injury to others would see Vince included in an XI in India.
Billings can feel hard done by that he missed out on selection for the South Africa series. He’s averaged 47.88 in ODIs since the 2019 World Cup and scored 71 against Australia in the previous series to this. Mostly batting at five and six he will most likely be cover for Buttler in case of injury. But he could be a useful batting reserve should England find themselves out of sorts with injury or form once the tournament gets underway.
It’s a simple equation for Stokes. If he un-retires he’ll be in the side, and even if he doesn’t of his own volition England will be doing everything they can to persuade him to.
To a large part, Livingstone’s inclusion in the side depends on Stokes. If he stays retired, the most open avenue for Livingstone’s inclusion is to push Moeen down to seven with Livingstone in the all-rounder role at six. With Stokes back in the side, and therefore a much more solid top-six, the most likely way he could find himself back in is over Moeen as a spinner. Given Root’s offering of part-time off-spin, Indian conditions and Moeen’s form problems, it’s not an unforeseeable scenario.
A potential wildcard pick, Jacks has yet to make his ODI debut. However, his form in T20 franchise leagues with bat and ball could lead to a rapid rise in the ODI pecking order. With potential as an opener as well as a lower-order finisher, he could leap-frog Livingstone’s World Cup hopes or be an outside pick to partner Bairstow.