Sealed with a flourish
Steve Davies can book his place on the plane to Australia with a fine display at the Oval, says Bob Willis.
Last Updated: 17/09/10 8:23am
Steve Davies can book his place on this winter's plane to Australia with another positive, fluent innings when England take on Pakistan in the third one-day international on Friday.w
The 24-year-old was a revelation in the first match of the NatWest Series as he stroked 87 and would appear to be in the ascendancy while Craig Kieswetter's stock drops.
Somerset's Kieswetter may be compensated by a County Championship or CB40 title this week but his chances of becoming a permanent fixture in England's 50-over side look on the wane due to an average of 26.66 from 12 innings.
While he was a central pillar in England's World Twenty20 success, I don't think England are in the business of taking specialists in the shortest format of the game all the way to Australia.
So if Davies can finish the NatWest Series in rousing fashion he could get the gig for all the one-day cricket Down Under - plus be England's reserve wicketkeeper for the Ashes.
I know in the past that the selectors have had some reservations about Davies' ability behind the stumps but he's worked pretty hard on that in his first season at Surrey - even if the ball doesn't get past the bat very often at the Oval!
I'd put him ahead of Kieswetter when it comes to glove-work and as the selectors are so keen for continuity it makes sense for the one-day keeper to act as Test back-up to England's current No 1, Matt Prior.
Finding a wicketkeeper-batsman is of the utmost importance these days in international cricket and Prior, who has three Test tons to his name, is certainly capable of batting at six although England remain reluctant to give him that responsibility.
Davies isn't short of flair in the middle either but he does need to be savvy with his shot selection and placement in one-day cricket, both of which should come with time.
Like many of the younger players we see on the county circuit, he needs to temper his aggressive attitude slightly; no batsman can hit every ball for four, even in a power-play.
Licence to attack can only extend so far if you want an opener to get your team off to a flying start and then build that start into a match-winning innings; it comes down to a matter of balance.
Time in the middle is a precious commodity, as Ravi Bopara well knows. I've no doubt the 25-year-old will be in England's one-day squad for Australia but he could do with a big finish to the season to help him feel more at ease in the side.
Bopara's a very, very capable cricketer - the problem he has is getting the chance to bat in a successful one-day side; his opportunities are limited.
After a torrid time in the Test match arena, it's important that he secures his place in the one-day side rather than fall by the wayside much as Owais Shah did.
For their part, Pakistan will be buoyed by their display at Headingley on Sunday even if they couldn't quite pull off the win they so badly wanted.
The tourists certainly didn't play like a team that has given up the ghost in Leeds - far from it - and, of course, some of them have happy memories of the Brit Oval having won the Test match there.
Groundsman Bill Gordon usually provides a magnificent pitch that produces a high-scoring match so their batsmen, at least, should be looking forward to the game with some relish.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of Sunday's game for Pakistan was that each of the top four got a start and built on it, even if the century box remained un-ticked.
As exciting as it is to see young talent scoring runs, I was pleased that Mohammad Yousuf made another solid contribution; now, as Andrew Strauss did, he has to go on and get a big hundred for his team.
England weren't right on the button in the field at Headingley and they'll need to rediscover the standards that helped them win the World Twenty20 earlier this year to give them the best chance of limiting Pakistan to a reasonable score if their talented line-up does fire.
Putting your foot on the opposition's throat has not been top of England's agenda in the past but under Andy Flower the team looks more ruthless and I fully expect them to come back from their little break and polish of Pakistan to put the series beyond reach.
Earlier this week the ICC's chief executive committee outlined a proposal to instigate a four-year World Test Championship that culminates in a four-team play-off series; in my view, the plans as they stand are absolute rubbish.
My main gripe is about the length of time involved because most teams will evolve significantly over the four-year period. Why can't we have a league that spans two years instead?
I don't see why we need a play-off system either. It could work well in one-day cricket, but not Test cricket. The team that tops the league at the end of two years should be crowned champions. End of story.
I'd have thought that the poor turnout for this summer's Tests between Pakistan and Australia in England would have convinced the ICC that staging a play-off final in every four years in a neutral country would not be a good idea, but it appears not.
Going forward, I'd like to see a system consisting of two divisions of five teams introduced with one team relegated and one promoted each time. Who knows, that format might even work on an annual basis if it was top priority in the schedules.
As ever, let me know your thoughts...