Cricket Expert & Columnist
England v Sri Lanka: Jonny Bairstow should bat at No 5 in ODI series, says Nick Knight
Knight discusses Stokes' absence and where Morgan should bat
Last Updated: 04/12/17 5:38pm
The in-form Jonny Bairstow should slot neatly into England's ODI side, says Nick Knight, but not ahead of Eoin Morgan in the batting order…
England will certainly miss the injured Ben Stokes in their ODI series against Sri Lanka as he can make a huge difference with bat, ball and in the field.
Jonny Bairstow is not a bad replacement, though, and I would expect him to come into the side at No 5 - the case he has made in recent months means he almost has to play.
Bairstow's self-belief is immense at the minute due to the amount of runs he is hitting both domestically with Yorkshire and at Test level with England - he expects a score every time.
Jonny's higher back-lift is another reason for his success - it makes it easier for him to generate power in his shots and deal with the short ball and he is now excellent off front foot and back.
You could argue that the form of Bairstow and the X-factor Jos Buttler brings should see them leapfrog Eoin Morgan in the order, particularly as the captain's batting has tailed off recently.
However, I always feel your captain needs to front up and bat in a position from which he can make a substantial total - the No 4 spot allows him to do that.
Morgan can face more deliveries, get in and then score big totals quickly, as we saw last summer when he hit six half-centuries and a ton across the ODI series against New Zealand and Australia.
England's strength undoubtedly lies in their batting so I will be particularly interested in how they fare with the ball against Sri Lanka.
Assuming they stick with the twin spin threat of Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid, I think I would go with David Willey, Chris Jordan and Chris Woakes as my three seamers.
Willey and the rapidly-improving Jordan were excellent in the World T20, while Woakes has shown good death-bowling skills in the past and is in a rich vein of form.
That would mean Liam Plunkett and Steven Finn miss out and that the side is perhaps short of some express pace, though Woakes was quicker on the speed gun than Finn in the recent Test series.
England could go in with four seamers and leave out a spinner, but I like two spinners in the one-day game even if the ball is not necessarily going to turn - they give you much-needed variety.
The selectors could also get two slow bowlers and four pacemen in if they leave out a batsman and that's definitely an option with the strength in depth they have with the bat down the order - if Bairstow and Woakes play, you could have Jordan and Willey down at 10 and 11.
But I like the notion of backing your three seamers and two spinners to show enough potency, both by taking wickets up front with the new ball and then by breaking partnerships in the middle overs, and then having Joe Root's spin as your sixth bowling option.
That's not ideal, though, and highlights just how important Stokes is to the balance of the side.
Watch the first ODI of the five-match series between England and Sri Lanka, live on Sky Sports 2 from 1.30pm on Tuesday.