Dip in pace may cost Liam Plunkett World Cup spot with England ready to name Jofra Archer in 15-man squad
- Future of the paceman is set to cause most consternation for the selectors
- Drop in pace has reduced his impact in middle overs of one-day internationals
- Liam Plunkett could be in preliminary squad but replaced before World Cup
- Archer could replace him if fast bowler makes right impression against Pakistan
Liam Plunkett’s participation in this summer’s World Cup will feature heavily when the England selectors meet on Tuesday, amid concerns his pace has dropped below the levels that make him effective in the middle overs of a one-day international.
Plunkett, who recently turned 34, could yet be named in a preliminary 15-man squad for the tournament — but only because changes can be made until a week before it starts on May 30, with England against South Africa at The Oval.
That leaves open the strong possibility that Jofra Archer, the Barbados-born Sussex fast bowler with a British passport, will replace him — assuming he makes the right impression during England’s five-match one-day series against Pakistan, which begins on May 8.
The future of Liam Plunkett is set to cause most consternation for England selectors this week
WORLD CUP SQUAD
(England’s initial 15-man squad for World Cup – possible)
Morgan (capt), Ali, Bairstow, Buttler (wkt), T Curran, Denly, Hales, Plunkett, Rashid, Root, Roy, Stokes, Willey, Woakes, Wood.
Archer, currently at the IPL, is not expected to be named in the initial World Cup squad, but is set to feature in an expanded 17-man party for the Pakistan series and a one-off ODI against Ireland in Malahide on May 3.
That larger squad will give England the option of resting the likes of Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali from the Ireland game, as well as a T20 match against Pakistan that precedes the 50-over series. All three have been at the IPL, and all three appear in every format for England. With an impossibly busy 12 months ahead, there will be precious few chances to keep them fresh.
But it is the future of Plunkett that is set to cause most consternation for the selectors as they look to finalise a team capable of lifting the 50-over World Cup for the first time.
Plunkett could be named in a preliminary 15-man squad but replaced before the World Cup
White-ball captain Eoin Morgan is known to be a big fan of Plunkett’s role in the one-day attack, hammering in the ball at high pace, back of a length in the middle overs. Yet not every member of a selection panel that also includes Ed Smith, his deputy James Taylor and head coach Trevor Bayliss are convinced that Plunkett’s pace is what it was. During the recent series in the Caribbean, which finished 2-2, he too often dropped towards to the low-80mphs.
And though he has helped the team to the top of the one-day rankings, his recent record has not cried out for inclusion.
Since taking four for 46 against India at Lord’s last July, five one-day internationals have brought him combined figures of 31-0-218-2. On Friday, on his Championship debut for Surrey, his first seven overs against Essex cost 55. Omission at this late stage would be a cruel blow for a popular member of the side.
Jofra Archer could replace Plunkett if fast bowler makes right impression against Pakistan
Other names up for debate include Kent’s Joe Denly, who has a powerful advocate in national selector Smith, who believes he can bat anywhere in the top seven, while his leg-breaks offer back-up to Ali and Adil Rashid. He is also an excellent fielder.
Chris Jordan has made a late bid for a World Cup place, despite not playing an ODI since September 2016, but looks set to miss out.
In Chris Woakes, Mark Wood, Stokes, left-armer David Willey and Tom Curran, whose variations offer an option in the death overs, England’s seam options appear to be covered. Archer would only add to that mix.
The batting strength is exemplified by the fact that Alex Hales, who smashed 147 off 92 balls when England hit 481 for six against Australia at Trent Bridge last summer —breaking their own world record — remains the reserve opener behind Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow.
Roy has an extra motivation to perform well in the World Cup. He may yet be handed a Test debut against Ireland at Lord’s on July 24, followed by a crack against Australia in the Ashes.
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