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News

Eoin Morgan pleased to field 'full strength' side but holds out hope for Joe Root

Test captain not out of the running as England start on blueprint for next year's T20 World Cup in India

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
03-Sep-2020
England will continue to use Jos Buttler as a T20I opener, Southampton, September 3, 2020

England will continue to use Jos Buttler as a T20I opener  •  Getty Images

Eoin Morgan has welcomed the chance to field something close to a first-choice T20I team in the forthcoming series against Australia, but made it clear that Joe Root is not out of the running as England start putting together their blueprint for next year's T20 World Cup in India.
During previous white-ball assignments against Ireland and Pakistan, Morgan has had to do without several players due to their involvement in the Test bio-secure environment. But with Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood returning to the squad, England are almost at "full strength" - missing only Jason Roy, through injury, and Ben Stokes, who has travelled to New Zealand to be with his unwell father.
"For the first time this summer we are seeing the majority of our best team on the park and that's great," Morgan said. "Bar injury and absent players, which is only a couple, we are at full strength. That is a nice place to be. We don't have to pick our best XI every series that we play because we can't put all our eggs in one basket, because we need 16 or 17 players in the lead up to a World Cup, all vying for selection in the best 15. We found in the lead in to the 50-overs World Cup that was the best position to be in."
While Morgan has been comfortable with giving opportunities to fringe players, he warned last week it would be important to get "our strongest team on the park as often as we can" in order to focus on role definition ahead of the 2021 World Cup.
On Root's case to be considered part of that group, Morgan indicated that England thought there would be more value in the Test captain getting some T20 cricket under his belt with Yorkshire, to better enable him to press his case among a clutch of top-order batting candidates.
"Yes, we have had that conversation with Joe and he certainly does have a future. The conversation was surrounding Joe not getting in the best XI at the moment. We didn't want to carry him round and him not play any cricket. Joe wants to play T20 cricket and put his best case forwards particularly when he doesn't have a lot of opportunity to go back to Yorks and play T20 cricket. We felt it was a really good opportunity for him to do that."
While Root played a vital role as an accumulator at No. 3 in the side that reached the 2016 World T20 final, his position has been squeezed by England's preference for using Buttler at the top of the order, as well as the stellar T20I record built up by Dawid Malan and the emergence of Tom Banton.
Morgan confirmed that Buttler would open alongside Jonny Bairstow against Australia on Friday, saying that along with Roy they counted as "three of our greatest-ever white-ball players". England remain keen to give Buttler as many balls per innings in which to wreak destruction as possible, although Morgan hinted he could still be redeployed to the finisher role he fulfils in ODI cricket.
"Like I have said before, we will continue with this until we feel that it's not working," Morgan said. "We feel that Jason, Jonny and Jos are three of our greatest-ever white-ball players. They are unbelievable strikers of the ball. They're batsmen who you do not want to bowl against. If one of the three of them gets going past the first six overs of the Powerplay, and into those middle overs, it puts us in a really strong position for the last 14.
"We always pose the question of how do we get the best out of all of our players. When you talk about those three guys specifically, it's more obvious with Jonny and Jason batting at the top of the order. Trying to get the best out of Jos, at the moment we feel the more balls he faces, the more influence he can have on the game. If we find things down the line haven't exactly worked out we can always fall back on Jos in the middle order."
England's wealth of options at the top has also masked, to a degree, their uncertainty around Nos. 5 and 6, where a number of candidates - from Sam Billings, to Joe Denly and Sam Curran - have been tried over the last couple of years, without staking a strong claim.
"One of the challenges we do have down the line is trying to find a middle-to-lower-order batter that can come in and play in an aggressive manner from ball one," Morgan said. "Very difficult to predict who that might be because very few do that at county level - they either bat in the top four or open. At the moment we do have an abundance of talented players who open the batting or bat at three."
Moeen Ali responded to a move up the order to No. 5 with his highest T20I score since 2015 in Tuesday's defeat to Pakistan. Ali afterwards admitted to "coasting" at times recently, but credited his captain for showing faith in him; Morgan said that he was hopeful Ali had now rediscovered his motivation.
"I have spoken to him a little bit about that," Morgan said. "Sometimes in your career, if there is no direct goal or direct drive in what you are trying to do, your mind is not challenged, your body is not challenged. It's always important to have that. It might be a team goal that motivates you, it might be an individual goal for different guys. It's really important to have that."
Morgan was also pleased to have Archer back to play his first limited-overs international since bowling the Super Over in last year's World Cup final, although he warned against overburdening the pace bowler with expectations after weeks of discussion about his role in the Test side.
"It's great to have him back. He's one of our match-winners and to have another one in your team is great - he's a huge asset. I just think we need to manage the level of expectation of what he produces throughout the series. Obviously, he has played a lot during the summer and he is very excited about playing in this series but we saw at Old Trafford in the first game [against Pakistan] guys took a little bit of time to get into their rhythm. So, the level of expectation naturally will be high but within reason."

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick