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Saturday, 4 March 2017

Quick thoughts: West Indies v England ODIs

Saturday, 4 March 2017
This is a series that seemed to creep up on me unexpectedly, sneaking in when I was just starting to turn my attention to the county season ahead. But that's not to say it has no significance. With England's focus being on ODIs until after the Champions Trophy, as they seek to end their eternal wait for a 50 over tournament win, the series offers more opportunities for players to seal their spot in the team, or to throw their name into the reckoning. As such, here's a quick look at the series after England's win in the opening game.

With Alex Hales missing through injury, Sam Billings got another chance at the top of the order. Whilst he still falls into the category of makeshift opener at this point, he has shown his promise with two fifties in three innings at the top - without quite sealing the deal by making that big score. Despite Hales scoring a record 171 only five innings ago, after missing the tour of Bangladesh and having a quiet tour of India before injury his place may not be so secure. There is an opportunity to take, but it'll have to be soon, with Hales hoping to make his return before the tour ends.



Eoin Morgan's 2016 was, well, quiet - averaging 29.81 with just the two fifties across his thirteen innings. So far, 2017 has served him better, with a century in the first ODI following another in India. It wasn't an innings that started fluently, but it was an innings England needed - coming in at 29/2 and helping them to the brink of 300. In partnership with Stokes (55) and Moeen Ali (a 22-ball 31 at the death), it might not have been the big-hitting bravado we've come to expect from England, but it was a clever innings that suited the situation and conditions.

With a spate of injuries to the fast bowlers, Steven Finn returned to the ODI side for the first time since September 2015. Such a long absence has always surprised me somewhat, given his decent record in the format, and that height, pace, and bounce that will always make him a threat. But as many times as he steps up, he steps back, and this winter has seen him drift from the side. There were no wickets in the first match, but with England short on resources, it's another chance to claim a spot. Another exciting name to have received a call up is Surrey's Tom Curran, and it's surely only a matter of time before we see him in the team. And after flying him in from the other side of the world, hopefully that time will be on this tour.

It was a good day for both Chris Woakes and Liam Plunkett who finished with four wickets apiece in what was, all in all, a good performance by England's seam bowlers. The fourth option, Ben Stokes, wasn't even used. Adil Rashid also returned to England's ODI side after being dropped in India, and it will be interesting to see how both him and Moeen Ali perform in the series ahead. England might not need two spinners once they return home, and though Rashid might be more of the wicket taking option he has perhaps slipped behind Moeen in recent months after his mauling at the hands of India's batsmen in that sole ODI. But in the meantime, Moeen has been wicketless in the format. It'll be as much a question of what England want from their spinner as who is the most effective.

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