England’s first choice XI for the opening World Cup match against South Africa will become clearer on Saturday with Jason Roy and Moeen Ali expected to return from injury for the second Royal London one-day international against Pakistan.
Roy had a lengthy net session at the Ageas Bowl on Friday and Moeen confirmed he has recovered from a rib injury he picked up in the IPL.
Roy has not played since suffering a back spasm while batting for Surrey two weeks ago, missing the trip to Ireland last week as well as the T20 against Pakistan and washed out ODI at the Oval on Wednesday. He will replace James Vince while Moeen could come in for Joe Denly.
Roy has been troubled by injury since February when he sustained what was initially thought to be a hamstring injury in the Caribbean. It is understood he was eventually diagnosed with a slipped disc which he aggravated in his third game back for Surrey when he had a back spasm while batting against Essex at the end of April.
The state of Roy’s back has taken on greater importance in the light of Alex Hales’s axing from the side. The top three was an area England had proper cover for in the event of injury but now Vince is first in line and has only played eight one-day internationals.
It is a shame for Vince that he is unlikely to play on a pitch he knows so well, particularly given the high scoring nature of matches at the Ageas Bowl. It was a golden chance in familiar surroundings to make his World Cup place certain.
Instead he will play for Hampshire there in the Royal London semi-final on Sunday. England have assured Vince he will be given a chance in the remaining three matches in this series as they look towards their final selection for the World Cup.
It was confirmed yesterday the World Cup 15-man squad will be announced by chief selector Ed Smith at Lord’s on 21 May.
Moeen linked up with the squad yesterday and returns to international cricket more confident than ever after a solid IPL season for Royal Challengers Bangalore.
His team struggled, finishing bottom of the league, but Moeen held his own in exalted company with two 50s, and generally bowled tidily.
He was picked for 11 games, becoming first choice under captain Virat Kohli, and believes the confidence gained sets him up well for the World Cup.
There are few more relaxed cricketers than Moeen; his faith giving him perspective on life. Cricket has its place which is why he thinks he was able to handle the expectation in the IPL and will cope with the World Cup-Ashes double.
“There is no pressure. I mean it, there is no pressure. It really depends on how you see things,” he said at an event for sponsors NatWest on Thursday.
“There is always that expectation on you to do well but that is different. Pressure for me is when people are struggling to live their lives, when people have serious things to cope with in their lives. This is a game of cricket, and those bigger issues are more important. Now is the time to have that perspective more than ever.
“I've worked hard over the last four or five years to get to this point and now it is about taking the confidence from those years of experience and letting myself go and enjoying my cricket.”
For Vince, he has derived confidence form a good Royal London tournament for Hampshire, scoring 190 on the day when Hales was dropped to confirm his role as first replacement.
“If he [Hales] was here I don’t think I’d be here now. I’m not going to say too much on his situation but it has given me an opportunity,” said Vince. “Now I think the plan for the rest of this series is to get a game or two and get some runs and push my claim ahead of the World Cup.”
England (possible): Roy, Bairstow, Root, Morgan, Buttler, Stokes, Moeen, Woakes, Plunkett, Rashid, Archer.
Pakistan (possible): Imam-Ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Asif Ali, Imad Wasim, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Amir.