England vs India: Balancing act as the big hitters back for first ODI

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Big hitter: Jonny Bairstow  (Action Images via Reuters)
Big hitter: Jonny Bairstow (Action Images via Reuters)

England will have their all-format batting stars back in white-ball action in the First ODI against India at the Kia Oval on Tuesday, after their importance to the T20 side was underlined in the series defeat by India.

England performed impressively in their T20 victory at Trent Bridge on Sunday, but it was too late to salvage a series lost in heavy defeats at the Ageas Bowl and Edgbaston.

After misfiring in the first two matches, England’s batting improved, with a score of 215, but India had heavily rotated their bowling attack ahead of the ODIs.

England’s relentless schedule makes the availability of all-format players “a balancing act”, according to white-ball head coach Matthew Mott.

Jos Buttler will have Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root and Ben Stokes back in his top five tomorrow for the first of three ODIs this week after long white-ball absences. The trio played starring roles in England’s four recent Test wins over New Zealand and India. “I don’t think they’ll have to change a hell of a lot, the way they’ve been playing,” joked Mott.

England want to pick their strongest side for the T20 series against South Africa at the end of this month, which would mean returns for Bairstow and Stokes. They have just 13 games before the T20 World Cup in October (three against South Africa, seven in Pakistan and three in Australia immediately before the tournament), and the series against India shows they have work to do.

Bairstow is a certainty for the World Cup but has not played white-ball cricket for England since the last edition of that tournament in November. For Test captain Stokes, the absence is longer, back to last summer’s series against Pakistan, when a Covid outbreak meant he was parachuted in to lead a scratch side despite a hand injury. His last T20 of any type came more than a year ago.

England captain Jos Buttler (Getty Images)
England captain Jos Buttler (Getty Images)

Root has also not played a white-ball international for more than a year; he remains keen to play T20s but his inclusion this summer would require a change in England’s thinking. It is three years since he last played a T20i.

“It’s a bit of a balancing act at the moment, it’s been a big Test summer already,” said Mott. “I think they’ve been starved a bit of the coloured clothing and are looking forward to getting back in the group. They come in pretty hot, are straight into it. That’s just the modern game, with a congested schedule.”

As they missed the 3-0 series win in Amsterdam last month, this will be Mott’s first opportunity to work with Bairstow, Root and Stokes.

“I’ve watched from the outside for a while and they are world-class players,” he said. “As a coach, it’s a great opportunity to learn from some of the best players of all time in this format. They will bring some energy into the group. I could tell when I spoke to them that they couldn’t wait.”

England are still without a clutch of World Cup-winning bowlers, as Chris Woakes, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood are injured and Adil Rashid completes the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Liam Livingstone is set to inherit the middle order spot vacated by Eoin Morgan’s retirement.

England probable team: Roy, Bairstow, Root, Stokes, Buttler (c/wk), Livingstone, Moeen, Curran, Carse, Topley, Parkinson

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