Is the England Lions XI Stronger Than the Current ODI Team?

Chris Bradshaw@@BradshawCDFeatured ColumnistAugust 22, 2014

Is the England Lions XI Stronger Than the Current ODI Team?

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    Could the England Lions beat the current England ODI team? The seniors start their latest ODI campaign against India on Monday still searching for the elusive formula for one-day success.

    With just two series wins and six defeats since the start of 2013, Alastair Cook's men have struggled playing white-ball cricket.

    Blooding youngsters has worked well for England in the Test arena. Could a similar policy work in the 50-over game? Read on to find out how the England Lions XI shapes up against the senior ODI team.

Top Order Batting

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    Making the most of powerplays at the start of the innings has consistently been a problem for England. As good as Alastair Cook and Ian Bell are, they don't strike fear into an opposition attack in the way a David Warner, Aaron Finch or Tillakaratne Dilshan does.

    It's here that someone like Alex Hales can make a mark. The Nottinghamshire opener has dazzled in the T20 game. His 50-over form is good, too. The 25-year-old smashed a run-a-ball century for the Lions against Sri Lanka A earlier this month. Hales followed it up with a hundred against Warwickshire in the Royal London Cup on Wednesday and he will be making his ODI bow against India.

    James Vince, who opened alongside Hales for the Lions in the Tri-Series against Sri Lanka and New Zealand, is another dasher. Averaging 35.55 in the domestic one-day game with a strike rate of 93.97, the 23-year-old has plenty of potential. He doesn't seem quite ready to take the next step to international level.


    Edge: England XI

Middle-Order Batting

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    The England middle-order selected for the India series is packed full of stylish run scorers. Ian Bell, Gary Ballance, Joe Root and Moeen Ali have all shown flashes of form this summer. The only batsman truly capable of destroying an attack, though, is Eoin Morgan. If he fails to fire when England are behind the rate there could be problems.

    Ravi Bopara, a surprise omission from the full squad, was in excellent touch in the recent Lions Tri-Series. Jason Roy has pummeled attacks in the domestic game and gave hints of what he's capable of with 51 against New Zealand A and 42 against Sri Lanka A.

    James Taylor has a superb record in domestic 50-over competition, averaging 50.36. The England hierarchy obviously have Taylor in their long-term plans by making him captain of the Lions. A full international return seems unlikely in the short-term, though.

    It's one thing to smash county attacks, another to do it when facing severe pace and mystery spin. The Lions middle-order has plenty of potential but doesn't yet match up to the seniors.


    Edge: England XI


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    Jos Buttler is one of the most exciting batsmen in world cricket in all formats of the game. The superb 121 from just 74 balls against Sri Lanka at Lord's gave notice of a potentially special talent.

    Jonny Bairstow is no slouch, either, but only an injury will keep Buttler out of the full side at present.


    Edge: England XI

Spin Bowling

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    Despite a modest first-class record, James Tredwell has never let England down in one-day internationals. Taking 52 wickets at an average of less than 25 with an economy rate of 4.76, the 32-year-old has enjoyed plenty of success.

    Joining Tredwell will be Moeen Ali, who should be full of confidence following his recent Test heroics.

    Solid rather than spectacular, England lack variation in the spin department.

    The Lions team that appeared in the Tri-Series featured two left-arm spinners, Stephen Parry and Ravi Patel.

    Parry had a taste of the international game in the World T20. The Lancashire man is essentially a defensive bowler. If the selectors are prepared to take more of a gamble then Patel is the man.

    The Middlesex-left-armer bowls an attacking line, gives it a rip and finds some lovely loop and drift. An ODI call up may not be on the cards immediately but international recognition surely awaits, though.


    Edge: England XI

Pace Bowling

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    James Anderson in autumnal overcast conditions will be a serious test for the Indian batsmen. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the seamers shape up in Stuart Broad's absence.

    Chris Jordan, Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes all showed glimpses of what they're capable of during the Test series. None made a definitive case for selection, though.

    Most interesting to watch will be Steven Finn. England have lacked an out-and-out paceman in his absence and will be hoping his troubles from Australia are well and truly over.

    Harry Gurney's left-arm seam offers variation.

    The most recent Lions squad was full of potential but nobody made a pressing case for promotion to the senior squad. Lancashire's Tom Smith and Northamptonshire's David Willey are fine (and feisty) all-round cricketers but do they have the class for the international game?


    Edge: England XI


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    Understandably, the full squad has the edge in all categories. In some areas, though, there wasn't much to choose between the Lions and Alastair Cook's squad.

    The sign of a successful Premier League football club's youth programme isn't how many trophies the juniors win, it's how many players go on to become regulars in the first team.

    Similarly, it isn't the job of the Lions to create the second best ODI team in England. Its purpose is to help young players make the transition from the domestic to the international game.

    Failing to win a Tri-Series against New Zealand and Sri Lanka's second strings doesn't matter if a number of the team go on to prosper with the seniors.

    The likes of Ravi Patel, James Taylor and Alex Hales certainly have a decent shot of achieving that.