Eoin Morgan’s semi-final selection conundrum

By Benjamin Redwood

Jason Roy’s calf injury has caused a selection headache for captain Eoin Morgan ahead of England’s IT20 World Cup semi-final against New Zealand.

850 days on from the craziest of days at Lords in the ICC World Cup Final, England and New Zealand once again meet in an ICC tournament.

This afternoon’s (14:00) game at the Sheihk Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi – will be a tough test for Eoin Morgan’s depleted England side.

Jason Roy’s absence means it is likely that Jonny Bairstow will move up to open with Jos Buttler.

At the top of the innings, Roy averages 25.30 at a strike rate of 144.93 at the top of the order. He encapsulates everything that is wonderful with this England side.

Similarly to Roy, Bairstow averages 25.07 when opening the batting in international T20 cricket. Jonny Bairstow is already an established T20 opening batter. He has a wealth of experience opening the batting in various franchise leagues, as well as for England’s 50 over team.  

One would be safe in assuming that Jonny Bairstow will be told to go hard from the off – in a similar way to Jason Roy. This ploy by England’s best player Jos Buttler to get himself in, without the threat of scoreboard pressure mounting. This gung-ho approach has made England the most feared white ball side in the world!

With Bairstow expected to move to the top of the order, captain Morgan is left with a conundrum.

Replacing Roy for another batsman would most probably mean that Kent’s Sam Billings comes into the middle order. Billings is a renowned finisher with the bat and is a huge asset in the field. Billings averages 16.68 at a strike rate of 128.30 from 29 IT20 innings.

However, an alternative replacement could be Yorkshire all rounder David Willey. Willey provides a left arm seam option with the ball and is a destructive left-handed batsman.

The now injured Tymal Mills offered Eoin Morgan a left arm seam option. Unfortunately, Mills sustained a quad injury in last Monday’s victory over Sri Lanka and was ruled out of the rest of the competition.

Mark Wood replaced Tymal Mills in Saturday’s 10 run defeat to South Africa, meaning England had no left arm seam option. Mills’ loss was felt.

David Willey would provide a left arm option for Eoin Morgan, who was forced into bowling out his seam bowlers (Woakes, Jordan and Wood) despite being reasonably expensive.  

Having a fourth seam bowling option in Willey would give greater flexibility to captain Morgan in the field. With Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid expected to bowl their allotted eight overs, greater flexibility with the other 12 overs will help Morgan restrict New Zealand’s impressive batting.

With the bat, Willey is very capable of clearing the rope. The big hitting batsman has opened the batting in T20 cricket. If he plays, it is likely he will bat at seven or eight. Below, you can see him terrorising Australia’s Nathan Lyon in 2018.

Bringing in Billings adds another batsman to England’s flexible middle order. Malan, Morgan, Ali and Livingstone can all move up and down the order dependent on the game situation. However, adding Willey could provide Morgan with that vital fourth seam bowler option – as well as a great lower middle order option with the bat.

James Vince has replaced Jason Roy in the 15-man squad, but it is unlikely he will play in today’s semi-final.

Eoin Morgan’s plans for this World Cup have been decimated by injuries. The pre-tournament loss of influential players such as Jofra Archer (elbow), Ben Stokes (finger) and Sam Curran (back) has thrown England’s T20 plans up in the air. Yet, four wins from five means they go into Wednesday’s semi-final as favourites.

Predicted England XI: Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, Liam Livingstone, Eoin Morgan, Moeen Ali, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid, Mark Wood.

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