Matthew Mott keeping World Cup reserve options open after show of power from back-up batters

Intense display from second-string squad against Ireland augurs well for white-ball future

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Matthew Mott oversees England net training  •  Getty Images

Matthew Mott oversees England net training  •  Getty Images

Matthew Mott, England's head coach, will fly out to India with the World Cup squad on Wednesday night knowing that he has an enviable depth of options available to him in white-ball cricket, after England's reserve squad put on an extraordinary show of power in the third ODI against Ireland at Bristol.
Although a dramatic thunderstorm curtailed the contest after just 31 overs of the first innings, England piled on the runs in that time, reaching 280 for 4 courtesy of Ben Duckett's maiden white-ball hundred and further half-centuries from Zak Crawley and Phil Salt (the latter from just 22 balls).
Despite missing each of the 15 players who have been named for the World Cup, there was no let-up in England's intent, from the moment that Salt and Will Jacks came together to rack up an 87-run stand inside seven overs.
Had they been able to bat out their final 19 overs, England would surely have powered past 400, and might even have had a chance of breaking the world record of 498 for 4 that Jos Buttler's senior squad posted against Netherlands in Amstelveen last year.
"We were seeing some new faces, but it seemed a bit like business as usual for the boys out there," Mott told Sky Sports after the abandonment. "A lot of this series has been about making sure we go out there and play with that aggression that this team has been renowned for for a while.
"They batted nice and free, and really took it on today, which was great. We weren't really sure what that wicket would be like, to be honest, it's been quite wet here and been under covers for a few days. But it was really positive way to approach the game."
The intensity of England's batting was perhaps heightened by the knowledge that nothing is yet set in stone when it comes to the identity of potential World Cup replacements, in the event of injury for any of the senior squad members.
Jason Roy, who was cut from the provisional 15-man squad to make way for Harry Brook, has been earmarked as a like-for-like replacement if either of England's designated openers, Jonny Bairstow and Dawid Malan, is forced to withdraw from the tournament.
However, Jofra Archer - who is on the comeback from longterm injury - is the only non-squad player who will travel with the 15, and Mott confirmed that he would be keeping an open mind about other names in the frame, adding that this week had been a useful opportunity to assess a few characters up close and personal in the dressing-room.
"We've obviously picked that 15 for the World Cup and, until we get injury or illness, they'll serve us well," Mott said. "The good thing about an India series, as opposed to Australia, is the fact that it's not a big flight away. We can call up people at pretty short notice and travel quite lean as well. Obviously Jofra will be there, but a lot of that is around him getting the servicing that he needs to get back to full fitness.
"Obviously, there's some players that know they're on the periphery of the team and missed out. But when you get an injury in a World Cup, it might seem obvious from the outside [who the replacement should be] but there's other things that go on inside the camp that other people aren't privy to, and what we might need to cover. So, as much as we can, we'll keep that option open."
Reflecting on last week's selection meeting, at which the decision to dispense with Roy was made, Mott added: "It was a really robust conversation with some really good minds in the room and it was definitely the hardest selection I've sat in. I think when you leave a player out of the calibre of Jason Roy, who's been such an amazing servant for England over a very long period of time, you know that you've got some talent in the room."
Roy was given the option of playing in these final two ODIs against Ireland, but in his absence England's chosen openers put on a show. Salt, a T20 World Cup winner in Australia last year, produced a scintillating innings of 61 from 28 balls, while Jacks was named Player of the Series after following up his matchwinning 94 at Trent Bridge with a further fluent knock of 39 from 21. Further down the order, Crawley, England's stand-in captain, produced a 39-ball fifty, while Duckett - a stand-out performer on Asian pitches last winter - was in full flow on 107 not out from 78 balls when the rain came.
"You can't really tell until you get in the change-room with some players to see how they tick, see how their mind works and how they approach the game," Mott said of the new faces in this ODI set-up. "You learn a lot just being around them in hotels as well, seeing how they go about their business, and I'm really excited about this group.
"Everyone has seen it, there's a real freshness to the way that they've come about their cricket," he added. "I think we've learned some good things along the way as well. And it's a shame that we haven't played as much cricket as we would have liked, but we've seen enough to know that there's an exciting few years ahead."
More immediately, the excitement will centre around the World Cup build-up, with the squad due to play two warm-ups against India and Bangladesh in Guhawati, ahead of the tournament opener against New Zealand on October 5.
"It's incredibly exciting times," Mott said. "It's been on the radar for us for a long time now and I think the guys should be nice and fresh. I think we've got just about the right amount of cricket behind us. The couple of practice matches will serve us well. I think we're ready to put our best foot forward."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket