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England ponder extra bowler as Eoin Morgan weighs up Jason Roy replacement

Decision will be based on Abu Dhabi conditions as new opening combo prepares to step up

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
09-Nov-2021
David Willey and Sam Billings (from left) could come into the reckoning as England seek final berth  •  Aijaz Rahi/Associated Press

David Willey and Sam Billings (from left) could come into the reckoning as England seek final berth  •  Aijaz Rahi/Associated Press

England will make a late decision regarding the balance of their side for Wednesday's T20 World Cup semi-final against New Zealand based on conditions in Abu Dhabi, their captain Eoin Morgan has revealed.
With Jason Roy ruled out of the tournament due to a calf tear sustained in Saturday's 10-run defeat against South Africa, England face a choice between maintaining their batting-heavy formation - which sees Liam Livingstone and Moeen Ali combining as the 'fifth' bowler to supplement three seamers and a frontline spinner in Adil Rashid - or bringing in a bowling allrounder to give themselves additional bowling cover.
James Vince was added to the squad on Monday after spending the last three weeks in Dubai as a travelling reserve and is one of two spare batters, along with Sam Billings. Tom Curran and David Willey are the two spare bowling allrounders, while Reece Topley was brought into squad as an injury replacement for Tymal Mills ahead of the South Africa game.
Morgan said that the decision as to who replaced Roy in the side would come down to conditions in Abu Dhabi, suggesting that they would lean towards an extra bowling option if they expect the pitch to be conducive to high-scoring, but would pick a batter if it looks like it will offer assistance for bowlers. It is understood that Wednesday's game will be played on Pitch 7 at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, which was previously used for South Africa vs Bangladesh and Pakistan vs Namibia in Super 12s fixtures and offered good bounce for seamers on those occasions.
"Replacing him [Roy] with another bowler would mean that you'd have 28 genuine overs on the field, and a lot of options," Morgan said at his pre-match press conference before England's optional training session at ICC Academy in Dubai. "If you were to go with a batter, it would mean a like-for-like replacement.
"When we turn up and look at the wicket, depending if it's a really good batting wicket or predicting if going to be a really good wicket, you might need the extra bit of bowling, and if it's not, we might need an extra bit of batting."
Morgan also confirmed that England had decided who would open the batting alongside Jos Buttler, suggesting that it is likely to be a player who has already been part of the side rather than a late entrant in Vince. Jonny Bairstow, an opener for England in ODI cricket and Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL, is the probable candidate, with Dawid Malan offering the main alternative, and Livingstone and Moeen representing more left-field options.
"Within the group, we've made a decision," Morgan said. "I'm not willing to share that unfortunately but the balance of the side will be determined on how the wicket looks and how we match-up against the Black Caps.
"I don't think it is [a difficult call to have made]. I think we're blessed with guys who can bat at the top of the order and actually want to bat at the top of the order. If you look around the highest run-scorers, the big-name players, they all want to bat or are batting in the top three in every team.
"We're lucky we have guys that queue up and want to bat in the top three, which is great because they want to go head-to-head with the big-name players in the tournament - they want to go head-to-head with the big-name bowlers in the opposition. I think we're in a very lucky position that we have a number of guys to choose from."
Whichever option England choose, Roy will undoubtedly be a major loss: he is England's second-highest run-scorer in this tournament and has been a key part of their white-ball set-up in the six-and-a-half years since their group-stage exit in the 50-over World Cup in 2015. Morgan said that he had been proud of his squad's "resilience" in the absence of other key players in Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes, Sam Curran and Mills, and that reaching the final would be "a hell of an achievement".
"If you look right from the very beginning of our selection process leading into the World Cup, we've got a number of big-name players missing from our squad and that's continued both pre-tournament with Sam Curran and into the tournament with Jason Roy and Tymal Mills," Morgan said. "Other guys have found something else within themselves to either try and fill that gap or contribute in a different way to the team.
"Like losing any of your experienced players, you can't really replace that experience that Jason has: he's played integral parts in our two previous World Cup campaigns. [But] of all the things we've done well throughout this tournament, probably our strongest point has been the resilience within our squad to be able to find a way to move forward and forge on."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98