@Ben_Wisden 4 minute read
England have named a 14-man squad for their three-match ODI series in South Africa in early 2023.
The series forms part of the Cricket World Cup Super League, and is finally being played after originally being postponed due to a Covid-19 scare in late 2020.
While the series is pivotal for South Africa’s hopes of World Cup qualification, England have already racked up enough points to be sure of their place at the 2023 event. However, there is still plenty of importance to the series, which counts as a quarter of the scheduled ODIs England have left before the World Cup.
England squad for South Africa ODIs: Jos Buttler (c), Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid, Jofra Archer, Jason Roy, Phil Salt, Ben Duckett, Dawid Malan, Harry Brook, Sam Curran, Chris Woakes, David Willey, Reece Topley, Olly Stone.
Talking points from the England squad for the South Africa ODIs
Roy gets another go, and there’s no space for Hales
Jason Roy struggled significantly for form through the second half of 2022. He went without a half-century through the English white-ball summer, leading to him being dropped for the T20 World Cup. England kept faith in him for the Australia ODIs, but he managed just 39 runs in three innings to increase the pressure on his place in the 50-over side.
Roy’s pedigree is greater in ODI cricket than in T20Is, with his record in the former stacking up against the elite openers in the format’s history, and England do have time before they need to make a decision. But it’s not clear who his replacement would be, should they choose to move on. Phil Salt, set to open with Roy with Jonny Bairstow still injured, has a formidable record from 12 ODIs so far, but that is boosted by 248 runs in three games against the Netherlands. England were reluctant to trust him as their main man for the T20 World Cup, leading to Alex Hales’ recall. Hales is not in this squad, and last played a 50-over game before the 2019 World Cup.
Malan, Duckett and Brook prepare for a middle-order shootout
With Joe Root ‘rested’ (more on that later), Dawid Malan, Ben Duckett and Harry Brook are likely to slot in in the middle order, with England having two vacant slots following the retirements of Ben Stokes and Eoin Morgan. Malan made an excellent hundred in Australia, while Duckett and Brook each have Test and T20I form behind them, and have demonstrated their skills against spin, relevant with the next World Cup to be played in India.
Moeen Ali at No.6 is an option too, with England also missing Stokes’ bowling to balance the XI. However, his batting returns have dropped off worryingly in ODIs: his last fifty-plus came at Bristol in September 2017, a game more remembered for the events of the night afterwards.
Jofra Archer is back
There’s no selection debate or point to prove here – really, it’s just joyous that Jofra Archer’s long, torrid run of injuries looks to be coming to an end. His selection in this squad marks his first England call since March 2021, and it’s not long until that wrist cracks at the end of that smooth action and the ball whangs into some poor opener’s armpit at 90mph.
Of course, there’s the trepidation that accompanies any return after a long layoff, that the player in question will come back diminished, but Archer pushing the speed gun to its limit in a red-ball warm-up ahead of the Pakistan Tests should assuage any concerns.
The club v country debate rears up once more
Joe Root is not in the 14 to tour South Africa, but he won’t be back home with his feet up, a cup of tea in one hand and a copy of Wisden Cricket Monthly in the other. Instead, he’ll be in the UAE, plying his trade for Dubai Capitals in the first edition of the ILT20 and presumably being paid handsomely for the privilege, something revealed concurrently with England’s ODI squad announcement.
Root has regularly made clear his ambitions to win a T20I recall, and will see this as a step towards that goal. He will go under the hammer at the IPL auction tomorrow. Considering Dubai Capitals are closely linked to Delhi Capitals in that competition, it increases the likelihood of him getting a deal there. Perhaps, when England go to defend their T20 World Cup crown in 2024, this will be looked back on as the start of Root’s journey back into the side. But Root’s ODI form has been iffy since the 2019 World Cup – he averages less than 30 in that time without a hundred – and missing this series shortens his opportunities to regain it.
If nothing else, it’s a sign of the times that a centrally contracted player can miss an important piece of World Cup preparation in a format he is vital in to play in a relatively minor T20 competition, and for that to not even warrant a mention in the press release announcing the squad.