England’s Opening Dilemna

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Tom Maston of Maston in the Middle analyses England’s plan B after KP was forced to fly home.

After Kevin Pietersen’s good start to life as an opening batsman, many thought that England had finally found a someone to partner Andrew Strauss at the top of the order.

However, a hernia injury means Pietersen has had to travel back to London for surgery, with Eoin Morgan being called up in his place. The selection of the Irish-born Morgan shows that England are going to have to find a new opener within their current World Cup Squad, with none of the other fourteen players being genuine opening batsmen.

Who will England now turn to? Andy Flower has revealed he knows who will open in against Bangladesh in Chittagong on Friday, but also said they may review the position on a game-by-game basis.

So who are the main contenders….

Ian Bell. Bell has previously opened in One-Day Internationals, and many people asked before the tournament began whether he would partner Strauss. He averages 33.33 from his 26 innings’ as an opener in ODI’s, but the last time he featured at the top of the order was in 2008. His style of play suits batting in the powerplays as he looks to pierce the gaps and play his shots, and he could prove the perfect foil to Strauss, who has been England’s most aggressive batsman thus far.

Ravi Bopara. Bopara’s impressive innings against South Africa should have made the selectors sit up and realise that the Essex man is, on current form, a much better man to have in the middle-order than Paul Collingwood. However, after Pietersen’s injury, they may again have to move Bopara from a position he looks comfortable in. He has previously opened in ODI’s, and averages less than 30 from his fourteen innings’, with only one half-century. Despite having the experience, the selectors would face some criticism if Bopara were to find himself opening again, as his batting style and ability to hit over the top would be much better suited to the middle and late overs.

Matt Prior. Prior is another of England’s middle-order who has experience of opening the batting, most recently in the seven-match series against Australia. However, from his 32 innings’ he only averages 24.2. Since Morgan’s injury, he has been batting in the number 6 position and has been enlisted as ‘the finisher’. However, with Morgan back in the side he may not be needed to fill this role, and this could see England revert to having their wicket-keeper doubling up as their opening batsmen.

Luke Wright. It would be a massive shock if Wright was handed the role of opener for the remainder of the World Cup, especially since in his six previous innings at the top of the order in ODI’s he has only mustered 107 runs. However, the selectors seem to feel he has something to offer the squad, and stranger things have happened…

In my opinion, Ian Bell is the best candidate to partner Strauss at the top of the innings. However, it would come as shock if England’s selectors went with Matt Prior, as it would open up the finisher role for Morgan to come into, whilst not disrupting the middle-order.

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