New Zealand v England, 2nd ODI, Napier February 20, 2013

Root creates selection dilemma

Joe Root has looked right at home in international the moment he made his Test debut. The latest example was a matchwinning innings in Napier, but how does he get into the Champions Trophy side?
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This current one-day series against New Zealand is the last chance for England players to make a case for a place in the Champions Trophy squad. In terms of leaving a favourable impression on the selectors, Joe Root could hardly have done any better with two half-centuries in two matches, including his unruffled matchwinning innings in Napier.

But instead of finalising plans in the selectors' minds his success may yet require them to rip up their original ideas. Heading into England's New Year one-day commitments, firstly in India and now in New Zealand, it was largely accepted that England's top five was set in stone: Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan.

But England's rotation of senior players - Trott was rested for India and Pietersen is missing this series - has given Root an opportunity which he has made the most of. In Napier he became the first batsman to start his ODI career with six consecutive scores of over 30 and, even taking into account a friendly batting surface and reasonably friendly attack, it was an innings that any of the best finishers around would have been proud of. Needing seven-an-over does not worry a modern batsmen, but Root made it look like a Sunday stroll.

As ever, Cook would only say that it was a position he was pleased to be in. "That is a good sign. You always want these new guys pushing the seniors for places. It's a good problem to have. Joe can only keep doing what he's doing, scoring crucial runs."

Root has already shown himself to be a very versatile batsman, which is why his case for Champions Trophy selection is becoming stronger by the day. Being an opener in the first-class game means he is not adverse to facing the new ball but he has the invention in his strokeplay to manipulate the field later on. What he lacks in brute strength he more than makes up for in dexterity as he showed in Napier with the scoop over fine leg.

"He's played shots I didn't know he could play," Cook said. "He came in today when we needed seven runs an over, and played very well. The way he has handled himself in international cricket so far has been very good. A lot of playing international cricket is about temperament, and he's certainly shown the right attitude and been able to handle pressure."

The current top five all have plenty going for them. The captain is not going anywhere, and is developing into a high-class one-day batsman; Bell is averaging 55 with a strike-rate of 80 since coming back into the team and Trott's value is appreciated hugely within the side if not quite so highly outside it.

Trott certainly puts the onus on other batsmen to make the running, which Root did on Wednesday, and a perfectly balanced top order would not have three similar players in the top three but, to beat a slightly broken drum, his record does not lose anything when compared to the likes of Jacques Kallis, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara or Younis Khan.

Perversely, Pietersen's u-turn over one-day retirement has caused some headaches. England had actually started to plan, successfully as last summer showed, for life without him. That is not the same as saying they were happy not to have him, but sport moves on and the squad had started afresh.

The rotation policy has meant the ultimate decision over how he slots back in has been delayed. Remember, before he briefly gave the game away in May he had been opening the batting alongside Cook. Now that is Bell's role and with the new fielding restrictions - and two new balls - there is the belief Pietersen can be most effective at No. 4. Still, Root is not making a bad job of that spot right now. And it was a lack of desire for 50-over cricket that sparked Pietersen's problems last year. Does he really have the drive for it, even in a Champions Trophy year and with a World Cup in 2015?

If it is accepted that Pietersen's place is certain then that leaves Morgan, a player who has shown some of the best "closing" skills in the world but who has begun 2013 with a bit of a stutter in ODIs. He scored 94 runs in five innings in India, although that came off a 2012 home season where he averaged 74.50. And there are still few better, and calmer, judges of a chase.

Ashley Giles has shown he is not afraid to make significant decisions early in his reign. In all likelihood he has ended Craig Kieswetter's international career and Jade Dernbach faces a long road back to the one-day side. To a lesser extent, Samit Patel - another victim of Root's success - is being pushed back to the fringes. But if Giles finds a space in the top five for Root come June, and the opening match of the Champions Trophy against Australia, he will have made his toughest decision yet.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Oli_B on February 22, 2013, 10:14 GMT

    I agree that Root has to play on current form and, given his age, for the good of his and England's future development in ODIs. Pietersen is the most devastating batsman we have and probably the only one guaranteed a place in any ODI side in the world; he must come back in. I personally think we go with the following line-up - with the order to be varied, as I believe all limited overs batting orders should be, depending on the match situation: 1. Cook (c) 2. Bell 3. Trott 4. Pietersen 5. Root 6. Morgan 7. Butler (wk) 8. Swann 9. Broad 10. Anderson 11. Finn

    While there is no authentic all-rounder there, I think it's perfectly reasonable to expect 10 overs from Trott, KP and Root (I believe the latter's off-spin has decent potential). Morgan and Butler can be shifted up the order if some serious acceleration in the run rate is required.

  • jmcilhinney on February 22, 2013, 0:09 GMT

    @kallis57 on (February 21, 2013, 15:39 GMT), I agree with you mostly there and would say that Trott's lack of ability to accelerate when it's appropriate/needed is the issue. I don't have a problem with his latest innings though. Usually he starts off very slowly and accelerates slowly, winding up with a decent strike rate only if he gets into the 70s or 80s. This time he got his strike rate up to 80 fairly early on and maintained it. He also played a lot more scoring shots so, at worst, he was rotating the strike. I don't expect Trott to be a big hitter as that's not where his strength lies but I do think that a more attacking frame of mind is in order so that he can get his strike rate up earlier in his innings and genuinely push it in situations where England need runs or have wickets in hand.

  • JG2704 on February 21, 2013, 18:17 GMT

    @yorkshire-86 on (February 21, 2013, 10:13 GMT) Bell will almost certainly do well in NZ and it will keep him in the side for all Ashes/SA series and SC series for however long he wants to play the game.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on February 21, 2013, 17:13 GMT

    @Dark_Harlequin (post on February 21, 2013, 16:27 GMT): Yup, based on current form and if five bowlers is the way to go, then I agree with your team. The likes of Morgan, Bairstow, Hales and Wright have also been argued throughout these threads which is fair enough, and I've already listed the bowlers in contention below. There's of course others I've missed like Meaker as well...

  • Harlequin. on February 21, 2013, 16:27 GMT

    @RU4RealNick - Dernbach never had form to get back! But I agree with Lmaostestung; you need 5 bowlers because and I don't think KP/Trott/Root are good enough with the ball. If Bopara could bat then you could possibly use him. I would have Root instead of Morgan at the moment, with 2 new balls and in England where those new balls with last longer, Trott will be invaluable at 3.

    Belly, Cookie, Trotsky, KP, Rooty, Buttlery, Woakesy, Tredders/Onions, Swanny, Jimmy, Finny

  • kallis57 on February 21, 2013, 15:39 GMT

    I know Trott averages 50 in ODI cricket but his batting is one paced and often leaves England short of the correct total when batting first and puts incredible pressure on his team mates. Root bailed him out the other night with a quite brilliant innings while Trott looked for another not out to boost his average. His batting is not based on what is best for the team but what is best for him. His grinding 60 odd the other night left us 30 short of the total required and he scored a 50 with one four in the game we won. Root should not be expected to bail out a senior batsman when he comes to the crease. Trott was happy to play for a not out and let Root do all the work. Players like Root KP and Buttler are prepared to attack the opposition bowling rather than sit at the non-strikers end calculating their average. Trott is also a horrible runner between the wickets and our worst fielder.

  • dummy4fb on February 21, 2013, 15:28 GMT

    England will be the strongest team and will be favorites to win the champions trophy the batting looks classy with pietersen coming in , and bowlers like finn and her son lol jimmy . swann a quality spinner i will back them to win the champions trophy

  • broadlm on February 21, 2013, 13:14 GMT

    PPD123, I agree and feel England would be stronger if KP slotted in at 4 with the rest moving down 1. Thus 4 bowlers + Root, KP and Trott to fill the other 10 overs. Alternatively, in English conditions I would have thought they would have kept Luke Wright on. He would have been ideal to bat 6 or 7 and send down some overs. Looked good in the 20/20s. Could have played in these 1 dayers vs NZ to see how he got on and then into the champs Trophy. I just think no 7 in one too high for Woakes/Bresnan.. Plus neither are particularly big hitters, which is what you ideally want at no 7.

  • yorkshire-86 on February 21, 2013, 10:13 GMT

    deb61 - Compton young? He is the wrong side of 30 and one of the oldest players in the squad! As for Root, he should replace the hapless Bell who is useless away from home.

  • phermon on February 21, 2013, 1:18 GMT

    PPD123: this is particularly true if you consider Root to be verging on being an allrounder. He's as likely as any of the fifth bowlers to restrict the scoring and get a wicket or two