The Morgan-Bopara impetus to England's line-up
With England resting five of their Ashes stars for the five-ODI series against Australia, the focus will be on other names. Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott and Joe Root - who were all part of the Ashes side - are in the ODI squad as well, but this series will also cast the spotlight on some of the other batsmen like Eoin Morgan, who's also England's captain for the series, and Ravi Bopara, who has never quite nailed a regular spot in the team despite his undoubted potential.
Both Morgan and Bopara made the right moves in the ODI against Ireland earlier this week: batting at Nos. 5 and 6, both scored hundreds to help England to an ultimately comfortable six-wicket win. Admittedly, it was only a game against Ireland, but England were under a fair amount of pressure when these two came together - they had been reduced to 48 for 4 in the 15th over, chasing 270. The 226-run partnership between Morgan and Bopara is an ODI record for the fifth wicket, and only the second instance of a No. 5 and No. 6 batsman scoring centuries in an innings: the previous such instance was 16 years ago, by India against Sri Lanka at the R Premadasa Stadium, when Mohammad Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja scored centuries after India had been reduced to 64 for 4 chasing 303; they ended up losing the match by two runs.
Traditionally, England haven't always had batsmen in the lower middle order who could take charge and force the pace: between 2000 and 2007, for example, the strike rate of English batsmen who batted between No. 5 and No. 7 was 76.88, sixth among all teams, and poorer than Australia, West Indies, Pakistan, South Africa and India (in matches against Test-playing sides). In the period since the 2011 World Cup, though, the strike rate of England's lower middle order (Nos. 5 to 7) has increased to 93.26, the best among all sides. The average is significantly lower than India's MS Dhoni-led line-up, but the high strike rate shows that England have found the enforcers in that part of their batting order, which is often a key element in ODIs. Bangladesh have the second-best average among all teams - a position they don't usually find themselves in - thanks to the exploits of Shakib-al-Hasan, Mahmudullah, Nasir Hossain and Mushfiqur Rahim.
The two batsmen who've scored the most runs for England in these three positions are Morgan and Bopara, and they've done it at a brisk rate too. (Remember, these numbers are only against Test sides, so they exclude the exploits of these batsmen against Ireland earlier this week.)
Morgan has scored at more than a run a ball during this period, with a couple of key innings at No. 5: against Australia at Lord's last year, he scored 89 off 63 balls to propel England to 272, which was enough to win them the game by 15 runs. Against South Africa at The Oval a little later that year, he scored 73 off 67 in a chase of 212, helping England win a tight game by four wickets. Both those performances won him Man-of-the-Match awards. In fact, in just 80 matches for England, Morgan has already won seven such awards, which puts him in joint 11th position for England.
Bopara has been resourceful down the order as well, even if he has only topped 50 once when batting between Nos. 5 and 7 during this period in 13 innings: that was a fine 96 against India in a tied game at Lord's a couple of year ago. Apart from that, he has made several quick 30s and 40s at faster than a run a ball, which is exactly the sort of contribution required from those batting in the lower middle order.
|Batsman||Inngs||Runs||Average||Strike rate||4s/ 6s|
|Eoin Morgan||27||733||36.65||101.38||55/ 19|
|Ravi Bopara||13||399||39.90||93.88||26/ 7|
|Samit Patel||16||353||39.22||92.65||29/ 8|
For much of the 2000s, Paul Collingwood was England's go-to man in ODIs when they were in trouble. In 138 innings when he batted between Nos. 5 and 7, Collingwood scored four hundreds and 21 fifties, and averaged 34.12. Overall in his career, he scored four centuries from 150 innings when batting at No. 5 or lower. Incredibly, Morgan has already equalled that mark in 69 innings, and no other England batsman has scored more hundreds from these positions. Even when considering batsmen from all teams, only three - MS Dhoni, Andrew Symonds, and Yuvraj Singh - have scored more than five hundreds from No. 5 or lower in ODIs.
|Batsman||Innings||Runs||Average||Strike rate||100s/ 50s|
|Yuvraj Singh||149||4837||39.64||86.68||7/ 33|
|Andrew Symonds||136||4337||40.15||92.88||6/ 25|
|MS Dhoni||164||5357||46.18||84.28||5/ 32|
|Eoin Morgan||69||2137||41.09||93.89||4/ 11|
|Paul Collingwood||150||4115||34.87||78.77||4/ 23|
|Chris Cairns||173||4461||29.93||84.05||4/ 23|
In all ODIs since the 2009 Champions Trophy, Morgan is among the top run-scorers from No. 5 or lower. Not only has he scored 1976 runs - the third-highest during this period - he has done so at an average and strike rate comparable with the best. His scoring rate is as good as those of Suresh Raina and Kieron Pollard, while his average is better. Morgan's conversion rate of fifties to hundreds is outstanding too, especially given the position he bats in.
Bopara doesn't find himself among the top run-getters, but his numbers are impressive too - 739 runs at an average of 43.47, and a strike rate of 96.09. Add his useful medium pace, and he is ideal as a No. 6 or No. 7 player.
Five matches against Australia will give both Morgan, now the captain, and Bopara plenty of opportunities to further cement their places at positions which are difficult to occupy in one-day internationals. England's ODI team can only be the stronger for it.
|Batsman||Innings||Runs||Average||Strike rate||100s/ 50s|
|Suresh Raina||85||2464||36.23||94.22||1/ 16|
|MS Dhoni||66||2418||54.95||83.75||4/ 14|
|Eoin Morgan||61||1976||42.95||94.86||4/ 10|
|Umar Akmal||58||1861||37.97||83.75||0/ 16|
|Shakib Al Hasan||55||1729||36.02||81.40||2/ 12|
|Angelo Mathews||69||1683||35.06||83.15||0/ 12|
|Kieron Pollard||65||1677||27.49||94.63||3/ 6|
S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter