England have a lot of opening batsmen in T20. A LOT. Here in this piece, myself, Duke and Kookabura and Rob Rush will each have our say on who we think should be opening the batting for England and first drop.
First the contestants and then the opinions.
Jonny is quite good at opening the batting, to put it mildly. World cup winner in the 50 over format, Jonny has an excellent record opening averaging 25 and scoring at over 140 from his 13 innings there. At 3 his statitistics are even better averging 46 at over 160, albeit from fewer innings than opening. His IPL statistics are frankly ridiculous; averaging 45 striking at 145; madness.
The other half of Englands World cup winning opening partnership; Roy has endured a torrid year since being thrust into Test cricket in the Ashes. A dire 2020, riddled with injuries, has left many to question his place. A late resurgence for Surrey in the blast with half centuries against Kent and Nottingham; he might finally have found some form. He has a similar average in T20I to Bairstow, averaging over 24 striking at 147.
He's opened 11 times in T20I, he averages 51 and strikes at just shy of 158. He's also Jos Buttler. The question of where Jos bats rather than should he be selected despite his heroics vs Australia this summer persist, he's one of the most destructive finishers in world cricket also.
It is a strange case that the world number 1 ranked T20I batsmen is not a shoe in in everyone's XI. He's had a phenomenal summer putting Pakistan and Australia to the sword. The concerns revolve around a near consistent slow start; 10 runs off 10 balls is approaching an internet meme. If he fails to get going; he could put his partners under pressure. He had a strange return for Yorkshire after England duty. Averaging 9 striking at 83; somewhat compounds fears of his slow starts.
Tom Banton has a mixed summer in England colours, finding himself having a storming series against Pakistan including a maiden half century whilst opening. When put into the middle order he continued to struggle in the middle order vs Australia. Averging just 4 across the 3 T20Is. Whilst an excellent talent, his struggles in the PSL and now his non-selection in the IPL, puts questions over how much further he needs to come before being a regular.
If there's such a thing as an old fashioned T20 player, then Joe Root is exactly that. Not many big hits from Root, however his record is good averging 35.72 but striking at 126 is somewhat lower than many of his contempories. His phenomenal form for Yorkshire in the blast: 5 matches averging 69.5 at 144. Root whilst not the most powerful of players, shows what touch and guile can achieve. He's not played T20I in over a year; perhaps England are moving towards a line up of hitters rather than having a more traditional anchor.
How Phil Salt doesn't have a T20I cap is a puzzle. Proven in the blast and in the BBL; Phil Salt is a tremendous young talent at 24 years of age. If it wasn't for the depth of the competition, he would have likely had a whole heap of caps.
The forgotten man, the pariah of English cricket. He has centuries in both ODI and T20 cricket in England colours. His discipline issues and drugs ban seems to mean the end for Hales who at over 31, doesn't have a huge amount of time to get back into the fold, before being thought of as too old to return. A supremely talented player, having conquered all around the world, he had a poor Blast by his standards, averaging 18.36; he'll be keen to return to form in the franchise cricket this winter.
Ben Stokes is a strange T20 player; he's everyone's allrounder for a test or ODI squad, but in T20s whilst he's played plenty, he's never really done it for England. A slow starter, not dissimilar to Malan before getting going. Stokes is currently being trialled as an opener for Rajasthan Royals in the IPL. Stokes in the top 3 isn't out of the question.
Last but not least; it's not a list about England if Joe Denly isn't in it. The batting allrounder, hasn't opened for England in a decade. However a peripheral member of the squad. A old school T20 player, relying more on touch and guile than range hitting ability, Denly as a back up batsmen - given his career, is anyone saying, it couldn't possibly happen?
Duke and Kookabura
Eoin Morgan is blessed with options at the top of the order, batsmen who could take advantage of the powerplay but he has fewer cards to finish an innings, fewer options available so I will open - mind the pun - by saying Buttler is my preferred finisher. I think the top four in T20 can be set, but numbers 5-7 can all float depending on game situation. Since you ask my 5-7 is Buttler, Root, Billings/A.N. All-Rounder but that's a debate for another time.
The World Cup winning openers Roy and Bairstow will open the batting for me in T20 cricket. Good mutual understanding, brute force and no little finesse makes this pair the ideal choice. Bairstow has proved in the IPL, and is currently proving again this year, just how savage he can be opening in T20. Roy's range hitting, timing and dexterity also give him the nod.
There is only one choice at #3 and that man is Dawid Malan. His T20i record is ludicrously good, and it's safe to say that getting the best out of him must mean him batting #3. He can be a bit slow getting going, often meandering to a run a ball 10, but his acceleration is something to behold. Having the left handed option is another bonus, but Malan's record demands inclusion. Given the time and balls faced, he will be rocking along at an excellent SR with power and creativity to find gaps and hit over the rope.
England’s white ball squads over the last 4 years have all got a common theme: hard hitting opening batsmen to set the platform for the finishers to come in and finish the job later on. It is no secret that England are blessed with top order batsmen in the shorter platform of the game; Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Jason Roy, Dawid Malan and Alex Hales can all make claims to bat in the top 3. But it is called the top 3 for a reason: only 3 batsmen can lay claim to these positions. So, who does bat there?
For me, the tried and tested method in T20’s is the way to go: Jos Buttler and Jason Roy opening, with Jonny Bairstow coming in at first fall of wicket. There has been much debate over where Buttler should bat in the T20 side, with some people arguing it is too much of a risk to play our best ever white ball batsman so high up, when instead he could be protected in the middle order as a “floater”, ready to finish off the innings as he so often does in ODI’s. However, when Buttler opens, he always seems to perform, and when Jos Buttler is on form, no-one wants to or can bowl to him. With the power play allowing only two fielders outside the ring in the first 6 overs, Buttler’s 360° ability is unmatched by anyone in international cricket, so allowing him to face as many deliveries as possible is a sensible move to give England the perfect start to either a chase or setting a target.
For the other opening spot, it really could be either one of Roy or Bairstow. Those two of course helped power England to World Cup glory little over 12 months ago, and given the fact that whoever bats 3 could be in after the first ball, it makes very little difference. The pillar of the limited over teams, Roy and Bairstow simply can’t be dropped from these teams, yet. Some of you may be saying “Where does Malan fit? Does Hales have a chance of coming back? What about Joe Denly?”. Here are my solutions to these questions; while Hales has reinforced he is one of the best white ball batsmen available in world cricket, realistically, his England career is over whilst Morgan is still captain, so that's a no go. With regards to Lord Denners, he’s fallen foul of injury in England’s last white ball bubble, and thus had to watch his Kent teammate Sam Billings jump ahead of him for the reserve spot, so that seems like a no-go too. Finally, Malan could slot in at 4 in the T20 side, as the selectors have moved away from Joe Root. A top 5 of Buttler, Roy, Bairstow, Malan and Morgan isn't too shabby, is it? With young batters such as Tom Banton and Phil Salt also waiting in the wings for a chance, England are not short of top order batsmen for limited overs cricket.
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For me this is an easy pick. Jason Roys collapse in form since his Ashes disaster, Tom Bantons multiple struggles and growing list of weaknesses rules those two out for me.
Joe Root has enough on his plate and is struggling enough in test and ODI cricket to add more to his plate. Ben Stokes is a debateable selection in a T20 side given he's never really cracked it for any length of time. Alex Hales torpedoed his own career and I would be surprised if he's ever trusted again.
Phil Salt is the future and should really be getting game time along with Banton. Whilst Joe Denly is a back up option I can get behind, a back up batting allrounder, especially useful given Moeen Ali's struggles. Denly however can't be a first XI pick to open or bat three.
Given these are the reasons I wouldn't pick players. Jonny Bairstow should open given his ever strengthening list of white ball achievements. Jos Buttler who slayed the Aussies is too good at opening to be pushed down the order. Whilst Dawid Malan is number 1 in the world and not selecting him is madness in my opinion.
So slight differences between the three writers. Agree or disagree? Let us know @insideEdgeCrick on twitter.