England are in a position that many T20 teams would be envious of. They have too many good top-order batsmen.
In the first T20 on Wednesday, Eoin Morgan and Chris Silverwood decided to open with Jos Buttler and Jason Roy. It's easy to see why.
When opening the batting for England, Jos Buttler goes at an average of 46.50 with a strike rate of 159. He also has experience opening the batting in the IPL with the Rajasthan Royals where he's excelled against seam (and to a lesser extent spin).
On the face of it, you want your best T20 batsmen to be in a position where he is comfortable and performs to the best standard. That's Jos Buttler opening.
The problem is, England's middle-order can be quite weak. Once you get through Morgan, there isn't a lot to get excited about. Even the excellent Ben Stokes has struggled to perform in T20's with a license to swing from #5. This resulted in England playing Joe Denly at #5 on Wednesday, a player who's never been known as a good T20 international cricketer.
At the start of this week, I banged the drum for Jos to open the batting. I'm a numbers man, and the numbers said he's more effective at the top of the order. However, for the team balance, I'm now changing my mind.
England have to find a way to get Malan and his 57.25 average in. You simply can't have someone averaging close to 10 with a poor strike rate entering through the middle order.
I was recently reading Cricket 2.0 (review here) and they used the case study of South African AB de Villiers to prove why it's important to have a set position in T20. AB averaged around 13.5 runs less in international T20's compared to the IPL, and his strike rate was around 15 points less as well. You could argue this was due to the talent level being higher at international level as opposed to the IPL, but they argue it's because the role he was asked to fulfil was inconsistent with South Africa, with his longest stretch of batting in the same spot lasting just 6 games.
For me, Jos needs to be the roamer/finisher. This would allow England to open with Roy/Bairstow and follow them with Banton/Malan etc. Then once we're 12 overs into the game you tell Buttler that he's next in. It doesn't matter if 0 wickets have fallen, 1 wicket or 2 wickets. Jos knows that he's slated as the #5 batsmen but at a certain point in the game that becomes irrelevant and he's next up.
The difference between Jos Buttler opening and him coming in at #4 is a deficit of 10 runs on the average and 16 points on the strike rate.
The difference between having someone like Dawid Malan playing or Joe Denly playing is an increase of around 46 runs on the average and 59 points on the strike rate.
If you're saying you have to have Malan at the top of the order, then dropping Buttler down to that finisher role is for the greater good of the England team. He's a 360 player who can excel with any field placements, at any point, in any game situation.
England could even play a lineup that looked like this. Malan has never batted #4 in T20's for England, but I wouldn't bet against him doing a job. He tends to need 5-10 balls to get in which is why he's preferred as an opener. However, I'd rather have someone take 5 runs off 5 balls and then hit 25 off the next 10 than what we saw from Denly.
Roy, Buttler, Bairstow, Malan, Morgan, Stokes, Ali, Jordan, Wood, Mahmood, Rashid
Where do you think Jos Buttler should bat for England?