England will look to establish their grip on a semi-final spot as they face Afghanistan at the Emirates Old Trafford on Tuesday.
Eoin Morgan’s side romped to a resounding victory over the West Indies last week, but the injuries to Morgan and Jason Roy dampened the joy that should have followed such a dominant display.
Nonetheless, England can consider themselves very fortunate. The injuries have come at a time when the hosts can most afford them.
With all due respect, neither the fixture tomorrow or the subsequent clash against Sri Lanka will send shivers down England’s spine, and they will feel that they have enough to cope.
Morgan has confirmed that James Vince will replace Roy, but whether or not will the skipper play remains to be seen. In an ideal world, you would not want to risk your captain and, more importantly, the country’s highest ever run-getter in this form of the game. He has trained and appears good to go, but there is no real harm in giving the duties to Jos Buttler in a game that is all about getting the job done. England should be sensible and rest Morgan tomorrow – but it is unlikely that they will.
It is also a good opportunity to rest Mark Wood – who is injury prone – and Adil Rashid – who has been carrying a shoulder problem. Game management, especially for players like Wood in such a long tournament is vital. He has been bowling absolute gas all tournament and has formed a formidable partnership with Jofra Archer. Imagine if overplaying him resulted in an injury towards the back end? That’d be a blow and a half. Similarly, Rashid could do with sitting out. He has not been at his best this tournament and some time away from the pitch will not only help him physically but mentally.
Which leads us to an important question: Who replaces them? Considering that the venue is Old Trafford, two spinners might come in handy, so selecting Moeen Ali and Liam Dawson will be a wise move. It still leaves England with four seamers in Chris Woakes, Jofra Archer, Liam Plunkett and Ben Stokes. There’s a chance that Plunkett could miss out because of his “tummy bug”. If that happens, look no further than Tom Curran.
Again, dropping Wood and Rashid might be unnecessary, but you don’t win the world cup if you don’t manage your players well. And these two need to be managed well.
Predicted XI (based on what is likely): Bairstow, Vince, Root, Morgan, Stokes, Buttler, Ali, Woakes, Rashid, Plunkett, Archer.
It will be a similar pitch to the one we saw in India Vs Pakistan. If there’s anything in it for the seamers, then it will probably only be in the first 15 overs or so, not more than that. As the game progresses, spin will certainly come into play, meaning that if England bat second, then Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Zadran will both have something to say.
Historically, Old Trafford hasn’t exactly been a batsman’s haven. India’s 336 the other day is the highest total at the ground and only the fourth time a team has posted a score of 300 or more in ODIs. Anything over 290 is therefore a winning total.
Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler (wk), Tom Curran, Liam Dawson, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, James Vince, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood
Gulbadin Naib (c), Noor Ali Zadran, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah (wk), Asghar Afghan, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shinwari, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran, Aftab Alam, Hamid Hassan, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Ikram Ali Khil
It will take a mammoth effort for England to lose this one. It really will.