Much was rightfully made of Ed Joyce’s superb maiden international century in the last One Day International. However, we also witnessed the emergence and revival of another two potential stars. Ravinder Bopara showed in his brief innings that he could be the perfect replacement for Paul Collingwood, who has patently lost his way recently. His pace between the wickets is excellent, much to Jamie Dalrymple’s surprise it seemed! He also showed that he has the ability to find a gap in the field as well as to turn ones into twos. These are of course the key attributes of a great finisher and Collingwood has not finished a game for England for a very long time indeed. In the field Bopara’s pace was a bonus and he has the ability to become one of England’s best fielders. Most welcome of all though was Bopara’s nippy bowling. Described as a medium pacer, Bopara was regularly hitting 80mph in his brief stint, during which he surprised Michael Hussey with a bit of pace and swing. This bodes especially well for England’s future, if Bopara could be developed into a bowler who could consistently bowl ten overs.
Should he develop into more of an all rounder, then he would of course join Andrew Flintoff and also Liam Plunkett, who has once again shown an impressive ability to hold a bat and score quick important runs. His bowling also seems to have returned to the promise of last winter, when he established himself in the England team. After injury though it has taken him a while to break back into the side, but now that he has, he looks as if he wants to stay and he seems fit, which is not something I was expecting, following the slow returns of Ashley Giles and James Anderson.
Monty Panesar and James Anderson would also both feature in England’s best one day side. There does however remain one important question. Jamie Dalrymple has not been bowling and when he has, has not been bowling particularly effectively. Does Dalrymple therefore belong in England’s best eleven as a specialist batsman? There are undoubtedly better players out there than Dalrymple when it comes to batting, Owais Shah one of the most obvious candidates. But Dalrymple does bring with him a lot of fight and grit and he has shown on numerous occasions, including yesterday, an impressive ability to come in when England are on top, a rare occurrence, and take the game forward, acting as another finisher. He is also a superb fielder and does offer the spin option should it be required. If he is not going to bowl regularly though it must bring his selection into question. Perhaps he and Bopara could share ten overs at the World Cup.
Fast forward to the World Cup and it would seem as though Flintoff, Plunkett, Panesar and Anderson are going to be the main bowlers, possibly backed up by another seamer at times, probably Jon Lewis, or the part time bowling of Dalrymple, Bopara and Collingwood. Ed Joyce seems to have cemented his place at the top of the order, although the same can not yet be said for Mal Loye who will likely be replaced by Michael Vaughan should the England skipper be able to maintain his fitness. Ian Bell has supposedly made number three his own, though he needs to start converting his 50’s. Pietersen is the man at four, who can be brought up to three if required. Flintoff is no doubt lurking at five or six, with the lower order comprising of Dalrymple (extra seamer), Nixon, Plunkett, Panesar and Anderson.
That would leave just one place in the side for Strauss, Collingwood or Bopara, at number five or six. Collingwood currently holds the role but I would be disappointed if Bopara did not get a chance to impress there again against New Zealand, with the veteran so out of form. Few would argue that Strauss should bat so low and so his best bet is to make a top four spot his own once more, but that would mean displacing a top order player, of whom Joyce was the most likely until his heroics. England currently have more top order players than places though, which is why Strauss is so at risk, with Vaughan and Pietersen certain to return in the top four for the World Cup and Bell and Joyce playing in such assured fashion.