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Nine back-up opening options for England’s ODI side

by Wisden Staff 5 minute read

One of the key takeaways from England’s white-ball summer has been their depth in the batting department.

Their leading run-scorer in ODI cricket across series against Ireland and Australia was Sam Billings, who has primarily served as a reserve batsman since his debut five years ago, while Dawid Malan rose to the top of the T20I batting rankings despite not holding an England central contract.

In 50-over cricket, World Cup heroes Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy remain the established pair at the top of the order. But with both over 30 years old, and each having flirted with form through their careers, there’s no guarantee that both will make it to the 2023 World Cup. It’s worth assessing the other men England could call upon in that department in the case of injury or a poor run of form.

The young bucks

Tom Banton

Despite making his name as a swashbuckling presence up top for Somerset, Tom Banton’s six ODI appearances so far have all come in the middle order, where he has yet to look entirely at home. In the third ODI against Ireland, he did reach his maiden fifty in an entertaining stand with captain Eoin Morgan, but his finest performance of the summer was a 71 as an opener against Pakistan, the long levers delivering five sixes in a 42-ball knock.

Phil Salt

A sign of England’s impressive white-ball stocks came with the announcement of Phil Salt’s omission from the ODIs against Ireland, a day after he smashed a 58-ball ton against the Irish for England Lions. Still uncapped, the Sussex opener has played in both the BBL and PSL, his aggression as an opener particularly impressive for the Adelaide Strikers last winter. He certainly appears to be in England’s plans going forward having been called up as a reserve for the Australia ODIs earlier this month.

Been there, done that

James Vince

Jason Vince was England’s reserve batsman at last year’s World Cup but failed to make much of an impression when Roy was injured, amassing 40 runs across three innings. Called upon for the Ireland ODIs, he made starts in all three games at No.3 without making a substantial score, somewhat typical of his international career so far. From 14 ODI innings, Vince has just the one half-century, but the free-flowing stroke-maker remains one of the leading 50-over batsmen on the domestic circuit.

Alex Hales

Alex Hales remains on the outer following his deselection from last year’s World Cup after reportedly failing a drugs test, with Eoin Morgan having repeatedly said that time is needed for the Notts batsman to regain the trust of his teammates. If Hales does ever return to England’s set-up, however, there will be little debate over his credentials; he was a key part of England’s white-ball resurgence following the 2015 World Cup, hitting big centuries when they twice broke the world record for the highest-ever ODI total, first against Pakistan in 2016 and then against Australia in 2018.

The men of the moment

Dawid Malan

At the top of his game in T20Is, Dawid Malan has only the one ODI appeareance to his name – he opened and hit 24 against Ireland last year – but was called in as a reserve for the Australia ODIs at the end of the white-ball international summer.

Sam Billings

While Sam Billings has made a strong case as a middle-order candidate this summer, he has opened the batting for England in ODIs in the past and has two half-centuries from four innings there in 2016 and 2017.

The curveballs

Zak Crawley

This has been the summer Zak Crawley announced himself on the red-ball stage, his breakthrough 267 against Pakistan establishing him in England’s Test top order. But he looks to have the game for white-ball cricket, too: earlier this month he blasted his maiden T20 century against Hampshire from just 48 balls, while his 335 runs in the competition so far have come at an impressive strike rate of 158. In last year’s One-Day Cup he averaged 56, suggesting his game looks well suited towards thriving in all three formats.

Daniel Bell-Drummond

Accompanying Crawley at the top of the order for Kent in the Blast this year has been Daniel Bell-Drummond, who is leading the run-scorers chart at the moment with 420 runs at 46.66 and a strike rate of 156.13. The crouching pocket-rocket holds a decent record in List A cricket, averaging 48.41 for England Lions in the format, although his last appearance came back in 2017.

Ben Duckett

Ben Duckett’s brief stay in England’s ODI side came on the 2016 tour of Bangladesh, where a duck was sandwiched between scores of 60 and 63, both of those half-centuries key in a series win. His last international appearance came as an opener in a T20I against Pakistan last summer, and he appears to have rediscovered his form at Notts this year following a difficult 2019, two centuries in the Bob Willis Trophy followed by three half-centuries in the Blast. He missed out on selection for the Ireland ODIs but did hit a 65-ball 68 at the top of the order in an England intra-squad match ahead of the series.

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