Ed Joyce has an outstanding first-class average – 47 – but he does not appear fully at ease in international cricket. The stylish left-hander has been nervous and unable to impose himself over his brief ODI career. The World Cup is looming, and the explosive cameo of Mal Loye may now mean Joyce is quietly ushered out of his adopted country’s World Cup plans.
In six international innings to date (one in Twenty20, five in ODIs), Joyce has scored just 42 runs, failing to pass 13 in any innings. Moreover, he has not been particularly unlucky or the victim of brilliant deliveries. He has just appeared tentative and unsure of himself – and the opposition have ruthlessly exploited this.
The Irishman is a stylish accumulator in the Graham Thorpe mould. But there appears one fundamental difference – unlike Thorpe, there are doubts over Joyce’s mental strength. And, while people may point to Ian Bell initially being afflicted by similar self-doubt, Joyce is 28 and, in all probability, will be given just one chance to prove himself in international cricket.
He is stylistically better suited to Test cricket but, unless he can allay fears that he is mentally weak, may never get his chance. Competition for England batting places – in both forms of the game – is fierce. Indeed, many felt Joyce should not have been named in the original one-day party, and would have preferred Middlesex team-mate Owais Shah, a fiery and explosive batsman who greatly impressed on Test debut, or the idiosyncratic and highly-effective opener Mal Loye.
The latter has finally received his chance and, in scoring a run-a-ball 36 topped by a superlative slog-sweep six off Brett Lee, showed his method can prove successful in the short-term; and, unlike Joyce, he never seemed to doubt himself.
Loye dared to play his natural game, knowing he has been selected to provide early-innings impetus. One of Joyce’s problems may be that is he unsure of his task: he is an accumulator of runs, but so are Ian Bell, Michael Vaughan and Andrew Strauss. To compound his uncertainty, he is batting in the position normally occupied by Kevin Pietersen.
If Vaughan returns for the next game, it should be at the expense of Joyce, rather than Loye. The Lancastrian must be allowed a run opening the batting – he did enough to suggest he can thrive there in the World Cup, and England must patently find a better way to utilise the Powerplays. Strauss, Vaughan and Bell, in that order, should occupy the other top four positions until Pietersen returns. Ultimately, England should select only the two that perform best in the CB Series for the World Cup, provided Loye fares well in the remaining games. Joyce, meanwhile, can now expect to be dropped, and must seek to approach future innings with less timidity.