Strauss coy over selection issues
Andrew Strauss is keeping a zealous guard on England’s selections and tactics for tomorrow’s World Cup Group B match against Bangladesh.
Strauss was pumped for clues in the guessing game of who will be his new opening partner, and how many spinners England may deploy in dry and dusty Chittagong.
But he assiduously avoided the merest hint as to whether Ravi Bopara, Ian Bell or Matt Prior will move up the order in place of the injured Kevin Pietersen - or if James Tredwell could yet join Graeme Swann and Mike Yardy in a three-strong spin attack.
It is England’s default policy to keep team selection up their sleeve, for fear of giving the opposition an edge, while remaining at pains to demonstrate they are in no way undecided.
A confident Strauss said: “We’re very clear in our minds who the best opening batsman will be for this game.”
The identity of Strauss’ first-wicket partner is not for public consumption, though, and neither is the bowling personnel.
“In terms of three spinners, I don’t want to comment on the balance of our side,” Strauss added.
“We’re going to have to make a judgement as to how much this wicket is going to turn and how much there is going to be in it for the seamers.
“Past experience here suggests there is a little bit in it for everyone, and seamers and spinners have been equally successful.”
All options remain open then, for a match which - if it goes England’s way - will all but certainly eliminate the co-hosts and probably confirm quarter-final qualification for Strauss’ team.
England’s prospects have been compromised by the loss to injury of two potential match-winners.
Pietersen and Stuart Broad flew home this week after succumbing respectively to hernia pain and a side strain.
Strauss, however, is heartened that England had the strength in depth to prosper without Broad after he was injured in this winter’s second Ashes Test. Eoin Morgan, called up in place of Pietersen, is already pencilled back in at number five - and Chris Tremlett is Broad’s like-for-like substitute.
“It is not ideal,” said Strauss. “But we have had to deal with this over the winter beforehand.
“We are very fortunate we have two ready-made replacements in Eoin Morgan, whose finger has just recovered in time, and Chris Tremlett, who bowls very similarly to Stuart Broad and has been with us and is used to the conditions.”
Whoever completes England’s jigsaw tomorrow, Strauss is hoping for an easier path to victory - here and in Chennai against West Indies next week - following notably tight finishes in all four fixtures so far.
“It has been great to be involved in some thrilling games. But personally I would have liked them to be a lot easier, and have a little bit more hair on my head at this stage of the tournament,” he said.
“We have shown a lot of character in a couple of those games - and we want these last two to be less close.
“We have been very inconsistent in this tournament so far. We have played two very good games against India and South Africa and two less good ones against Ireland and Holland.
“We want to, firstly, ensure we qualify for the quarter-finals - which means we have to win this game - and, secondly, we want to get some consistency in our cricket.”
Bangladesh came spectacularly unstuck against West Indies in Dhaka last week.
But Strauss will not be underestimating a team who beat England in a one-day international at Bristol eight months ago and, in opener Tamim Iqbal, have a player who made two belligerent Test hundreds and four fifties from eight attempts against them last year.
“They are a very dangerous side, especially at home,” said Strauss. “They have got a lot of shot-makers in their top order and some very good spin bowlers.
"We are very aware that they are likely to come out very determined to put on a better show than they did against the West Indies, and that makes them even more dangerous.
“It is a must-win game for Bangladesh and they are going to be 100% committed.”
As for Tamim, he added: “We know he takes the game to the opposition and has done well in the past.
"I think we know a little bit more about him as a player now, but we are going to have to make sure we get our plans right from ball one, otherwise he will get off and running and give Bangladesh a good start.
“The crowd is going to be 100% behind Bangladesh, and that is going to be a hostile atmosphere for us. But if you want to win World Cups you can’t have everything on your own terms. You have got to deal with that, and I think we will do so.”