Briggs and Buttler in line for ODI call up
England are set to shake-up their ODI squad for the four-match series against Pakistan that starts in Abu Dhabi on February 13. Someset's Jos Buttler and Danny Briggs of Hampshire could earn a call-up to the ODI squad for the first time.
Buttler, 21, has been in good form recently for England Lions. He and 20-year-old Briggs are the players most likely to win a call-up to the squad, while Ian Bell may pay the price for England's limited-overs failings. Bell has passed 50 only once in his last 14 ODI innings and has looked distinctly uncomfortable against Saeed Ajmal's spin bowling in the current Test series. James Anderson is also far from certain to be included.
England have two aims: to improve their chequered ODI form and build a side that can challenge for the World Cup in Australasia in early 2015. But those aims may not be completely compatible with England likely to include a third spinner for this series in conditions that will differ markedly from those anticipated at the World Cup.
England have a mixed ODI record. While their home form remains impressive - they won series against both World Cup finalists, India and Sri Lanka, at home in 2011 - their away form is grim. They lost all five matches against India in October and 14 of their last 20 outside England. They have won just five and tied the other.
Their record in Asia is even more gruesome. Since December 12, 2005, England have won just 12 of 38 ODIs in Aisa and four of those victories came against Bangladesh and the Netherlands.
Buttler struck two centuries in his last four innings for the Lions against Sri Lanka A, including one from 56 deliveries. He broke into England's T20 side towards the end of the English season after impressing in several important games - notably the CB40 final and the FPt20 quarter-final. He is seen as having the big-match temperament and the big-hitting game to prove a destructive ODI player. And can also keep wicket.
The squad is also likely to contain at least three spinners with Briggs the most likely to join Graeme Swann and Samit Patel. The legspinner Scott Borthwick, with his extra batting ability, is another possibility, though Briggs' superior control gives him an edge. Moeen Ali, who is currently playing domestic cricket in for Moors Sports Club in Sri Lanka, would be another option.
Monty Panesar is also an outside bet to win a recall. He played the last of his 26 ODIs in 2007 but he is bowling well with 14 wickets in two Tests and, aged just 29, should still be fit in 2015.
In a bid to improve the tempo of England's batting, Kevin Pietersen is likely to be given another opportunity to open the innings, with Craig Kieswetter dropping down to bat at No. 5. While England hope Pietersen can exploit the Powerplay overs, Kieswetter is also seen as an accomplished hitter of the older, softer ball.
Both may require productive series to silence their critics. Kieswetter has only passed 50 once in his last 24 ODIs, while Pietersen has not made a score of 80 or more since November 2008. Indeed, in that period, he has only passed 50 three times in 34 innings. But England have invested a lot of time in both of them and would be loathe to change tactics now.
The likes of Steven Davies, James Taylor and Joe Root are also vying for places but Tom Maynard and Jason Roy have experienced difficult Lions tours and may have to wait a little longer for an opportunity.
England (possible): Alastair Cook (capt), Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, Eoin Morgan, Craig Kieswetter (wkt), Samit Patel, Jos Buttler (wkt), Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, Steven Finn, Jonny Bairstow, Jade Dernbach, Danny Briggs, Ravi Bopara.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo