As England head to India on Wednesday evening to defend their ODI World Cup title, head coach Matthew Mott says they are close to deciding upon their starting XI for the tournament opener against New Zealand.
The defending 50-over champions depart from London with a well-rested group of 15, plus Jofra Archer as the only travelling reserve. A second-string squad contested this week's three-match ODI series against Ireland, culminating with another Bristol washout on Tuesday. Victory at Trent Bridge in the only completed ODI on Saturday saw the hosts walk away with the most subdued of 1-0 wins.
Nevertheless, the performance in Nottingham and Tuesday's rambunctious start of 280 for 4 after 31 overs before the rain arrived was a serious flex of English depth. Now, it is time for the golden generation to take over again, as Jos Buttler's squad aims for what would be a legacy-confirming third ICC trophy in just over four years.
There are seemingly no fitness issues for England, beyond Archer's ongoing recovery from a longstanding right elbow issue, and he would only be used from the bench in the event of an injury in the latter stages of the competition. Mark Wood's heel is said to be fine, likewise Adil Rashid's calf.
The squad convened at Lord's on Wednesday for a sponsor's lunch before they headed to Heathrow Airport for their outbound flight. Their journey in this latest iteration of the 50-over tournament begins a week on Thursday in a repeat of 2019's Lord's final against New Zealand, this time at Ahmedabad. Their ultimate aim is to return to that venue on November 19 to contest 2023's showpiece event.
After a month of trial and error against the same opponents in a 2-2 T20I series and 3-1 ODI success, Mott believes that he and captain Buttler have a good idea of their teamsheet for that opener on October 5, but given that England will be playing at eight different venues across their nine group games, he anticipates digging deeper into the squad this time, compared to the use of just 13 players four years ago.
"We're close but it's still a while away," Mott said. "And we don't know how guys will pull up, [it is] a quick turnaround when we land in India. We've got a rough idea, then it's about opposition, whether we go batter-heavy, bowler-heavy. The squad we have picked gives us great flexibility.
"I do [expect to use more than 13], because of the venues, the travel, certain players thrive, others don't go so well. That's why when you pick the squad, you do a lot of 'what if?' scenarios."
England squared off their first uncertainty a week ago when Dawid Malan and Harry Brook were confirmed in the squad. Jason Roy had been the man in possession when the provisional squad was announced at the end of August - and had been told as much - but he found himself nursing a second high-profile snub in a year.
And yet, having missed out on 2022's T20 World Cup, Roy could still have a part to play over the next eight weeks. As a key part of England's 2019 success and a totem of their overall white-ball revolution, Mott confirmed he remains available and willing to answer any mayday call as an injury replacement for the tournament, even though it seemed his race had been run when he missed the four New Zealand one-dayers with back issues.
England's head selector Luke Wright subsequently suggested that Roy could make an appearance in one of the final two matches against Ireland, and his non-involvement in those games gave rise to fears that he may have been badly burned by the late omission. However, Mott clarified that Roy was "never down" to play against Ireland and confirmed that he is keen to join up with the group if one of the opening spots becomes available.
"Yes, absolutely - never in question," Mott said, regarding Roy's willingness to be a reserve. "He is strongly keen to get on that plane. He is incredibly disappointed, as you would expect. He is very determined if an opportunity opens up again that he is on that plane.
"I know a lot of people speculate about him not playing here [against Ireland], but he was never down to play in this series. So that was not a big thing from our point of view. This time at home for him, if this opportunity does come up, I think it will serve him well."
Mott admitted there are lessons to learn from Roy's situation, particularly around communication, though insisted the ICC's desire for teams to hand over a list of players six weeks before the tournament is partly to blame for the awkward situation that arose. "The facts are we were forced to name a side earlier than we wanted to and every team will say that." Nevertheless, he has faith that Roy's head will be in the right place if the emergency call comes.
"Observing him from a distance during his career, he's gone through a number of ups and downs and he has come out and averaged 40 and with a strike rate of nearly 100 for his career. I have absolute confidence if he got that opportunity, he'd come, and he's got a point to prove as well. We'd love to be proven that we got it wrong. But equally, we'd want 15 fit players, so hopefully that's what happens."
That last point is particularly pertinent. Roy's back spasms prevented him from cementing his spot on the plane, ultimately allowing Malan to confirm his ticket with a Player-of-the-Series turn in the New Zealand ODIs. And Tuesday's century by Ben Duckett, alongside a breakneck 61 from T20 World Cup winner Phil Salt and Will Jacks' 94 in Nottingham, highlighted the fact that there are a variety of options England could call upon in the event of an injury to one of their travelling batters.
Each offers something different, a point that was not lost on Mott after a week on deck with the understudies. "This was a great series to witness, to see the talent level down the pathway. A great reminder of what we have going on here."
In the immediate future, there is no need for England to expressly name their reserves. The three who travelled for the successful T20 World Cup last winter was purely down to logistics, with the 24-hour flight time from the UK to Australia necessitating alternates on the ground. With the route to India more straightforward, Mott made it clear that anyone who played against Ireland should stay sharp.
"Everyone in this group here, and everyone on the periphery, should be maintaining their fitness," he said. "Because you never know what can happen.
"I think, all things considered, we'll judge it with what cards we have got. It depends what injury is down, and what it looks like. But we know you've got a proven performer you can call on at any time."
As for ambitions, Mott is downplaying all tags; holders, favourites - the lot. "We don't have any expectations," he said with a wry smile. Though he conceded that India are favourites in home conditions, he added the caveat that things can go "either way".
It's less about kidology, more about Mott keeping his usual quiet counsel. But having been in the job 18 months with one title under his belt already, he knows finishing in the top four of 10 to make the semi-finals is the bare minimum.
"The idea is to get out of the group stages and put yourself in a position to be in the finals. There are so many good teams in that competition it's hard to rule out any team.
"We've seen enough in cricket in recent times that a lot of teams are going to contest and expect to do well. We are one of them but I don't look at it as defending champions. We go in with the same points as everyone else.
"Once we get on that plane it's pretty much straight into it. There's a couple of warm-up games then right into the World Cup. We are in a good spot - we have players in form, players hungry and a good mix. We are really excited about what's coming up."